New Computer Virus and Variants on the Loose; TSA to Get Privacy Czar; U.S. Boosts Pakistan Military Ties; Attacks in Iraq Rise Ahead of Anniversary

New Computer Virus and Variants on the Loose

A new malicious computer program, called phatbot or polybot, has been detected that can create networks of remotely controlled computers to take part in online attacks, send junk e-mail messages as spam and engage in other shady activities common to the bad neighborhoods of cyberspace. According to The New York Times today, phatbot was considered novel enough that the Department of Homeland Security asked a group of computer analysts last week to examine and monitor it. The Times quotes Craig Schmugar, virus research manager with Network Associates, saying his company currently rated phatbot as a "low risk" because it had not spread as widely as recent worms. But he added that "the potential for this one is huge" because it could spread in many ways and perform many surreptitious functions on the machines. The British site >Infoconomy.com says it can carry out such a wide range of attacks that it has been described as "the Microsoft Office of the computer netherworld". Meanwhile The Register today reports the arrival of four new Bagle variants, which use an unusual method of infection in an attempt to bypass AV protection at e-mail gateways. They do not carry e-mail attachments, making them much more difficult to spot. If a user opens the message and their machine has not been patched against a five-month old critical vulnerability, malicious code is automatically downloaded from the PC which sent the "carrier" e-mail. TSA to Get Privacy CzarUPI) story today, acting chief of the Transportation Security Administration, David M. Stone, told lawmakers that he would soon appoint a special privacy officer and an external privacy oversight board to calm public fears about the "Big Brother" character of the agency's computerized passenger threat profiling system. The Department of Homeland Security's own privacy officer, Nuala O'Connor Kelly, told UPI the field of candidates was very strong and she expected to be able to work well with whoever was appointed. Privacy experts cautioned that in order to be truly effective and independent, the oversight board would need to include people who are willing to challenge and question the agency.

According to a United Press International (

U.S. Boosts Pakistan Military Ties reports today that U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says Washington will elevate its military ties with Pakistan, making it a major ally outside of NATO. Powell said the elevation of relations with the US was a reward for Pakistan's unstinting efforts to hunt and find al-Qaeda suspects sheltering in Pakistan. Before meeting with Pakistans president, General Pervez Musharraf, Powell repeated Washington's concerns over the nuclear proliferation network set up by the top Pakistani scientist, A.Q. Khan. The Pakistan authorities have insisted Khan was working on his own.

BBC News Online

Attacks in Iraq Rise Ahead of AnniversaryAljazeera.net, today a blast at a hotel in the southern city of Basra killed four; attackers opened fire on a minibus carrying employees of a U.S.-funded Iraqi television station northeast of Baghdad, killing three and wounding eight; and yesterday a car bomb attack on a Baghdad hotel reportedly killed around 17 people. Coverage of the violence by CNN.com also reports that two U.S. service members died in separate mortar attacks that also wounded 10 troops.

Explosions and shootings have racked Iraq in what appears to be an intensification of resistance in advance of the first anniversary of the U.S.-led operations in Iraq. According to the English version of

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