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One Step Ahead
October 2, 2007, Volume 54, No. 6


one step ahead

Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.


Computer Worm’s Many Disguises

A widespread computer worm named “Storm,” circulating since January 2007, has many guises.

The worm arrives in your email inbox as spam.  A recent version warns that the Recording Industry is tracking you if you download free movies or music. You are pointed to a link to download Tor, a popular anonymous internet routing implementation. But if you follow the instructions, you infect your machine with the Storm worm. Your machine is then drafted into a network of hacked machines used to crash popular websites and carry out identity theft attacks. Other versions of the scam send the Storm worm as an email attachment rather than send you to the website.

Other Storm worm bait that has hooked victims includes:

• Bogus email warning that your face is all over YouTube. If you click on the purported YouTube link, you’re asked to first install specialized video viewing software (which, in truth, is the Storm worm).

• Bogus email informing you that an account has been created for a free music/movie service.  The email includes an account name and a password and instructs you to log on, but first you need to install a (bogus) media player. Same result: Storm worm infection.

• Bogus email forged to look like it’s from Amazon (or eBay, or PayPal, or many large banks) warning you that you have unpaid fees (or that your purchase is (in)complete, or that your information is out of date). If you click on the bogus link and follow the instructions: Storm worm.

• Bogus email announcing that you have an electronic greeting card. Same result as above.

• Bogus email with news announcing “Chinese missile shot down by Russian satellite”.

• Bogus email announcing, “Saddam Hussein is alive”.

In general, be wary of unsolicited email asking you to click on links or to install software. If you think it might be legitimate, type the URL into your browser rather than click on the link. Or check it out by calling the organization using a phone number from a service like switchboard.com. Electronic greeting cards are  highly suspect these days.  If you don’t recognize the sender, hit “delete”. (If it’s a secret admirer, don’t worry, they’ll eventually find you.) If you receive email claims about outlandish news stories, don’t click on those links either, but simply point your browser at your favorite online newspaper.


For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.

Almanac - October 2, 2007, Volume 54, No. 6