The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday January 29th

Computer Virus Poses Threat

Instead, expect a virus that already has affected hundreds of thousands and could contaminate your computer. But an N.C. State University graduate has set up a Web page to help stop the virus from doing any more damage.

The virus, known as Hybris, spreads by sending itself as a message attachment to everyone the victim e-mails.

Though the virus itself does no immediate damage, an infected computer puts itself at the mercy of the virus writer.

"The scary thing about this virus is that it's possible (for the virus writer) to write a plug-in for the virus," said Casey Blackburn, a 1999 N.C. State graduate, who has set up a Web site to inform people about Hybris.

It is unknown if the writer of the virus has written any plug-ins that could do damage to an infected computer.

But because of the potential damage the virus could cause, Hybris has earned a classification of "severe" from antivirus firm Norton Utilities.

Blackburn, a network administrator for a Raleigh-based company, first noticed Hybris last month during a virus alert circulated at work. He said he became suspicious when he saw the "sexyfun.net" domain on the infected e-mail. "I went to the (sexyfun.net) Web page and found out it didn't exist," he said. "That was the first clue that the return address was fake."

After finding out that the sexyfun.net domain was not registered, Blackburn registered it himself. Since its Dec. 11 launch, Blackburn's site has logged more than 130,000 hits, mostly from others suspicious of the domain name.

"Nine times out of 10, people find this Web site because they are trying to find out about the e-mail," Blackburn said.

But Blackburn said he also has been contacted by e-mail from foreign nations and even a member of the Brazilian government looking for help on dealing with the problem.

And Hybris has struck UNC as well, according to Academic Technology & Networks. "I know we have had at least one reported here," said Jeanne Smythe, director of computer policy for ATN.

Smythe added that ATN's staff is prepared to help students delete Hybris from infected computers.

Smythe also stressed virus prevention. "Rather than open any attachment, download it first and scan it," she said.

But an old version of an antivirus program might not detect the latest viruses, an often overlooked problem that might result in disaster.

"That's what students, in my experience, are less likely to do -- download updated virus definitions." Smythe said. "If you lose your laptop, you lose an awful lot of your life."

The State & National Editor can be reached at stntdesk@unc.edu.

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