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New worm poses as tsunami relief plea

A mass e-mail pretending to ask for aid to help the victims of the Asian tsunami disaster is actually a vehicle for spreading a computer virus, a Web security firm says.
/ Source: Reuters

A mass e-mail posing as a plea for aid to help the victims of last month's Asian tsunami disaster is actually a vehicle for spreading a computer virus, Web security firm Sophos said on Monday.

The worm appears with the subject line: "Tsunami donation! Please help!" and invites recipients to open an attachment called "tsunami.exe" -- which, if opened, will forward the virus to other Internet users.

It could also initiate a denial-of-service attack against a German hacking Web site, Sophos said, in which the site's server would be bombarded with messages, putting it out of action.

"Duping innocent users into believing that they may be helping the tsunami disaster aid efforts shows hackers stooping to a new low," Sophos senior technology consultant Graham Cluley said in a statement.

Sophos added that it had so far only received a small number of reports of the worm, which it said was not the first to try to take advantage of the Indian Ocean catastrophe in order to spread.

Another worm earlier this month propagated the message that the tsunami was God's revenge on "people who did bad on earth".

And there have been a number of mass e-mails sent out in an attempt to steal money, many of them versions of the so-called Nigerian Letter scam, to which readers are invited to reply with their details, apparently in order to help transfer large sums of money and receive a cut themselves.

One appears to be from a wealthy Thai merchant suffering from a fatal disease who has lost his family in the tsunami disaster and needs someone to collect millions of U.S. dollars from a European security firm to distribute it to charities.

"I need a God-fearing and trustworthy person that will be able to travel to Europe, to collect this deposit from the security company," the mail reads.

Sophos recommends recipients delete the mails and do not open the attachments.