While the feds are battling the Internet Reds, most of the online world is still dealing with the Sircam virus, which began infecting personal computers last week.
That stubborn e-mail worm is particularly difficult to stamp out because of its changing subject line. Although the typical Sircam e-mail reads: "I send you this file in order to have your advice," it can also have completely different subject lines, making it impossible to tell whether a message is legitimate without opening it.
Unsuspecting recipients who trigger the virus get Sircam programs lodged in their computer desktops’ recycle bin, from where the program randomly selects a file from the "My Documents" file and e-mails it to every person on the computer’s Internet cache, along with a hidden copy of the virus program itself.
In this fashion, private or sensitive files can be passed around publicly, causing everything from simple embarrassment to irreparable harm to business deals.
And because the attached files can be of any size, the heavy traffic slows down Internet connections and can crash e-mail servers.
The virus has infiltrated 96 countries but is hitting the United States and the United Kingdom the hardest. It has earned a "high" danger rating from most virus-watch companies. The virus is being slowed somewhat by firewalls and anti-virus software.