Virus surprise hidden inside Christmas gifts

Staff exhibiting their Christmas presents at work may find they give their company an unwanted New Year surprise. Reports today show MP3 players can shut down Windows by passing on the VBS/Soraci virus.

According to Kaspersky some MP3 players are arriving readily infected because they are tested on computer systems carrying the Soraci virus. Once these players are connected to a Windows 9x/ME PC it infects it.

"It certainly jolts you," said David Emm, senior technology consultant at Kaspersky. "It's reminiscent of the infections from years ago on floppy disks. If people take these machines into work it could be a problem"

Anti-virus firm Sophos' report on Soraci highlights how the virus uses the Microsoft VM ActiveX Component vulnerability to access the file system and registry without any of the usual security restrictions. It attacks versions of Windows older than XP or 2000.

But Emm pointed out that it's not yet an epidemic. "It's difficult to quantify how bad this will be," he said. "I suspect what's likely to happen is publishers will become very paranoid about the systems they are using to test these machines. The question is whether it will take some sort of incident to wake them up?"

MP3 users can protect themselves by pre-formatting their player before installation.

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