The Sublet Virus

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I found this warning on the internet, so you know it's true...

Friday April 2, 1999 12:55 PM ET

Vicious New 'Sublet' Virus Brings Internet to a Halt

ANN ARBOR, MI (Reuters)  Fresh on the heels of the recent 'Melissa' virus,
a new, more virulent strain is spreading.  The so-called 'Sublet' virus
appears to have been developed specifically to out maneuver high-tech
anti-virus software, and spread its unwelcome payload at an alarming rate.

Unlike the relatively simple techniques 'Melissa' uses to replicate itself,
'Sublet' relies on complex, polymorphic techniques.  'Melissa' arrives at a
user's in-box, declaring itself as an 'Important Message from' the sender's
name.  The message itself reads 'Here is that document you asked for ...
don't show it to anyone else ;-)'.  If the recipient unwittingly opens the
attached Microsoft Word document, the virus springs into action sending a
copy of itself to the first fifty entries in the user's address book.
'Melissa' clogs e-mail servers and can even crash them if enough users in
an organization are infected.  

The 'Sublet' virus is far more insidious, with each new infection it
mutates making detection much more difficult.  The message users receive
appears to be an advertisement for an apartment sublet, with detailed
descriptions of the apartment's amenities.  However, by the time they've
finished reading the message, users of the popular Pine e-mail program will
have already become infected, sending a similar message to dozens of e-mail
addresses.  In addition to its ability to alter the content of the message,
'Sublet' focuses its wrath on e-mail lists rather than individuals.  These
lists, used to provide a convenient communications channel for members of
groups, can each contain hundreds of users enabling the virus to virtually
explode across the Internet.

The effect of 'Sublet' is most strongly felt by members of the academic
community, where it seems to have taken a foothold, in part because of the
widespread use of the Pine program.  Students at the University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor were recently deluged with dozens of 'Sublet' messages in a
single day.  By some estimates, as many as 500 students received each
message, many of whom automatically generated 'Sublet' messages of their
own.  Complaints to the school's technology division yielded no adequate

Biology student Sari Purcell was visibly annoyed as she sat in a computer
lab, ``This in a waste of my time.  I don't need a sublet, I guess they
have a right to say what they want and like, in the name of what we believe
or whatever, but this is crazy.''  The sentiment was echoed by Law student
Eric Postal, ``It's fascists like this that ruin it for the rest of us.
Why can't they leave me alone, I have a lot of work to do without these
techno-Nazis wasting my valuable time.''

Although efforts are being made to come up with a software solution,
authorities can only suggest that users delete all e-mail messages with
'sublet' or 'apartment' in the subject before opening them.  Experts expect
that this virus will continue to reappear year after year as college
students leave at the end of the semester and try to rent out their
apartments.  ``The best advice I can give people who want to sublet their
apartment is to post fliers, and not to e-mail ads, as that will only
prolong the problem, and crash more machines'' warned computer consultant
Chris Coon.

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