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P2P could mean trouble

Virus writers use file-sharing sites to spread disaster

Leading anti-virus firm Central Command yesterday released the findings of its annual survey, which showed peer-to-peer file-sharing sites are becoming virus writers’ latest target.

The survey, mailed out to around 943,000 PC users, explored the recipient’s computer’s security settings and searched for known vulnerabilities.

But while over half (58 percent) of respondents said they had grown cautious of email attachments and would delete anything sent from an unrecognised sender, many were not aware of the threats posed by other applications including P2P websites.

“These numbers mark a great improvement from a year ago,” said Steven Sundermeier product manager at Central Command. “We have relentlessly preached about the risks associated with email attachments and we’re finally seeing the message is sinking into users minds. Unfortunately the lesson doesn’t end there as other types of applications are now being targeted.”

File-sharing or P2P applications, such as the defunct-Napster or popular site KaZaA, have been branded the killer application for broadband. But as more people flock to such sites the ubiquity of malicious code written for these applications is growing.

Over 39 percent of respondents admitted they were unaware of possible security holes and dangers of using such services.

So far the P2P viruses which have been detected have been pretty harmless. W32/Gnuman, commonly known as Mandragore, was one such virus which infected users of Gnutella software, spreading among users by posing as an MP3 file. The file was actually a .exe and infected the users computers as soon as the programme was ran.

But this and other P2P viruses, such as Surnova, have done little damage other than taking up extra resources on the computer.

“This doesn’t mean that these viruses won’t become more serious,” said a spokesman at anti-virus firm McAfee. “P2P users should be aware of the possible risks of using such services.”

The full results of the survey can be found at www.centralcommend.com/safesurvey2002.html


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