New 'Goner' Computer Virus Surfaces

ByABC News
December 4, 2001, 1:34 PM

Dec. 4 -- A new computer virus called Goner is spreading through the Internet today.

Although not as technically sophisticated as recent worms such as Nimda or Badtrans, experts warn that the rapidly propagating Goner program is already slowing down the Internet and causing minor damage to thousands of users' computers.

A senior Washington official told ABCNEWS, however, that government computer systems were not affected by this latest cyber attack. The official said a new threat warning system developed in conjunction with the private sector after last summer's Code Red worm attacks had helped to get the word out about the new Goner worm early this morning.

Like other so-called computer worms, Goner spreads through Microsoft's popular Outlook e-mail program. The file arrives as an attachment to an e-mail with the subject line of "Hi." The e-mail message reads: "How are you? When I saw this screen saver, I immediately thought about you I am in a harry [sic], I promise you will love it."

If unsuspecting recipients open the attached file, goner.scr, the computer will appear to install a screen saver until a bogus error message apparently stops the process. By then, experts say, the virus will have attached itself to a new e-mail, and is then sent to all the e-mail addresses listed in the Outlook progam.

The Goner virus can also spread through a popular instant message program known as ICQ.

In addition, the virus, officially dubbed W32.Goner.A@mm, will begin to secretly delete any security files anti-virus and so-called personal firewall programs installed on the infected PC. It will also install itself within the Windows operating system so that whenever the infected computer is restarted, the virus will spread unless it is removed.

Open for Future Evil?

Some security firms are trying to determine if the virus will also leave a so-called back-door program that may leave the infected PC vulnerable to further mischievous uses.