Sample small.DAM email courtesy of F-Secure
(Helsinki) Emails claiming to provide readers with the latest news about the monster storms that tore through Europe this week actually contain a virus that could leave computers vulnerable to future attacks.
The virus - dubbed "Storm Worm" by antivirus experts - is sent to hundreds of thousands of email addresses globally, with the e-mail's subject line saying "230 dead as storm batters Europe."
The spam messages used subject headers such as "230 dead as storm batters Europe." The virus took the form of an attachment with titles such as "Read More.exe", "Full Clip.exe", "Full Story.exe" and "Video.exe", according to Finnish tech firm F-Secure.
"What makes this exceptional is the timely nature of the attack," said Mikko Hypponen, head of research at F-Secure.
Hypponen added that most users will not notice the malware, which creates a virtual back door to the computer that can be exploited to steal user data or to use the computer as a zombie to spread spam.
Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for antivirus firm Sophos, said that the virus has spread rapidly.
"On average, one in every 200 emails that people have received since midnight are likely to be infected by this Trojan horse," he said. "Receiving or reading the emails themselves does not mean that you will be infected. However, users must be very careful not to click on the attached file inside the emails as that will install a Trojan horse on their computer."