The "MyParty" virus, masquerading as a URL for an online archive of photos, came as a shock last week to companies in Australia who didn't realise that a mass-mailer worm could disguise itself as a harmless-looking link in a message.
The virus, camouflaged as www.myparty.yahoo.com, urged e-mail recipients to click on it to see photos of what was said to be the sender's recent party. But the URL was actually a computer virus that left a dangerous backdoor Trojan horse on infected machines before mailing itself off through the Microsoft Outlook directory.
"Not only did it e-mail to everyone, and I mean everyone, in my address book, but my computer crashed shortly thereafter," says one MyParty victim, who prefers to remain anonymous.
Antivirus software vendors quickly issued a signature update to stop MyParty last week, noting people are likely to suffer a new mistrust of URLs in messages in general.
"This mass-mailer worm will impact the credibility of all URLs, particularly for photo archives such as Yahoo and Shutterfly," says Chris Wraight, technical director at antivirus software vendor Sophos. Several vendors recalled they had seen a computer virus disguised once before, the "Coolside" virus of six months ago.
Computer Associates antivirus research manager Jakub Kaminski said there were only about a dozen reported cases of the virus in Australia with the company giving it a medium-level threat rating.
"As a mass-mailer worm it has the potential to spread like fire but the threat hasn't really materialised; it was discovered and dealt with quickly," Kaminski said.