Virus writer and hacker activity has stepped up dramatically since the US and UK armed forces started their war against Iraq. In the past 48 hours
more than 1,000 websites have been hacked and defaced, according to internet security firm F-Secure, and the company suggests most are in the response
to the military action in the Gulf.
A new e-mail worm is spreading by capitalizing on interest in the war with Iraq and related issues, British
antivirus vendor Sophos warned. Some e-mails containing the W32/Ganda-A worm contain subject lines and content designed to entice the user with the
promise of Iraqi spy photos, screensavers expressing patriotic U.S. sentiments or critical of the Bush administration, and warnings about Nazi
propaganda being spread via CD-ROM to children or over the Internet. The worm spreads by sending itself to e-mail addresses collected from EML, HTM*,
DBX, and WAB files on an infected computer. It creates two copies of itself in the Windows folder and it changes the Windows
registry so that it loads automatically every time the computer is started.
Among those attacked are a number of US military sites, as well as commercial and political properties. Many were defaced with anti-war messages as
the weight of protest mounts.
Perhaps most notably, the US Navy website was hacked by an activist called Apocalypse. The message posted on the site read: "No War, U.S.A think they
can tell the world what to do, It is not what you can do for your country, it's what your country can do for you! This defacement is dedicated to my
Virus activity is also expected to soar during the conflict and is also starting to show signs of an increase. On Wednesday silicon.com reported the
presence of the Ganda virus in the wild, which preys upon people's interest in the war.
Jack Clark, product manager at McAfee, said: "Virus writers will use any occasion that they think will work on computer users, no matter how sick -
be it the attack on the World Trade Centre or the war with Iraq. They are just looking for attention and will use anything that will guarantee them
media attention." Clark believes there will be a lot more viruses launched in emails related to the war in Iraq. He said: "Virus writers will play
upon people's curiosity for information about the war."
In related news, war has toppled sex as the most popular search term among web users, according to UK ISP Freeserve. Peacetime favourites such as
'Britney' and 'sex' now look likely to play second fiddle to 'war' for the duration of the conflict in the Gulf.