Paul Roberts, San Francisco
A worm that spreads through Microsoft's MSN Messenger instant messaging program is circulating online, snatching product keys for popular PC games, according to an alert from antivirus maker Sophos.
If released on a computer, the worm opens a back door to the infected PC and sends out email messages containing the product keys for popular PC games such as Half-Life to an anonymous web-based email account, according to Sophos.
The new worm, dubbed "W32/Rodok-A" or "Henpeck" uses MSN Messenger to circulate a message enticing users into downloading and running an executable file named "BR2002.exe" from a remote website, according to Sophos.
The message reads, in part:
"Hey!! Could you please check out this program for me?
I made it myself and want people to test it. Its a readme with the program that explains what it does!"
The threat posed by the new MSN worm was rated as "low" by most antivirus makers. Despite that, and the fact that there were few reports of users being infected by the new worm, many antivirus software makers posted updates to their software Wednesday and Thursday covering W32/Rodok-A (aka Henpeck).
As part of its infiltration, a link is provided in an instant message that points to the location of the worm on the internet. When users download and launch the program, the worm displays a phony CD key generating program. Behind the scenes, it connects back to the same web page from which it was downloaded, retrieves an updated version of itself, and attempts to download and place a so-called Trojan on the infected PC. The website containing the worm was offline early Friday, however.
Trojans are malicious programs often distributed by viruses. They allow the PC on which they reside to be used as part of a distributed denial of service attack orchestrated by a remote attacker.
The particular Trojan installed by the MSN worm is known as "BKDR_EVILBOT" and can be accessed and manipulated with commands transmitted using Internet Relay Chat, according to an alert posted on the web page of antivirus company Trend Micro.
In addition to opening a back door to the machine and installing updated versions of itself, the worm appears to search for and copy any product keys for games that are installed on the infected machine. Among the games it searches for is Half-Life by Sierra Entertainment, according to Sophos. Any product keys the worm discovers are sent by email to an anonymous Hotmail account, where the virus author can presumably retrieve them.