• United States



by Paul Kerstein

E-mail Scammers Posing as FBI, CIA

Nov 23, 20052 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning computer users notto open a widely circulating e-mail that falsely claims to have beensent by U.S. authorities. The e-mail attempts to trick users intoinstalling a variant of the Sober worm by telling them that they havebeen spotted on “illegal Websites,” and asking them to click on anattached “list of questions.”

“These e-mails did not come from the FBI,” the FBI said in a Tuesdaystatement posted at”Recipients of this or similar solicitations should know that the FBIdoes not engage in the practice of sending unsolicited e-mails to thepublic in this manner.”

This latest worm now accounts for more than 65 percent of all malicioussoftware being reported to antivirus vendor Sophos PLC, and makes upabout one in every 74 e-mail messages being sent on the Internet, saidGraham Cluley, a senior technology consultant with Sophos. “It’s quitea significant event,” he said. “I’m not sure that it’s necessarilygoing to last, but at the moment it’s well ahead of any other virus.”

Once launched, Sober scans the user’s hard drive for e-mail addressesand sends the bogus e-mail to new recipients. After that, it awaitsfurther instructions from its creator, effectively turning the infectedsystem into a remote-controlled zombie computer that could be used forfurther spamming or computer attacks.

Sometimes the worm pretends to come from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or German police, Cluley said.

Variations of the Sober worm have been circulating for about two yearsnow, and their code is similar enough that they are all thought to havebeen written by one person, or perhaps a small group of people, Cluleysaid.

By mentioning U.S. law enforcement, the worm writers have made it morelikely that users will inadvertently launch malicious code, but theymay also be goading the FBI and the CIA, Cluley said. “It seems abizarre thing for the virus writer to do, to pick a fight with the FBIand CIA in this way.”

The FBI is taking the matter “seriously,” and is investigating, the agency’s statement said.

By Robert McMillan – IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)