World Cup Virus Season Kicks Off

The FIFA World Cup 2006 tournament won’t get underway in Germany until early June, but computer virus writers are already attempting to cash in on the planet’s most popular sporting event with viruses aimed at deceiving eager soccer fans.

Researchers at UK-based Sophos released notification of a new attack that infects Microsoft Excel files and has been disguised as a spreadsheet charting the national teams participating in the World Cup.

Identified by the security company as XF97/Yagnuul-A, the virus lives in an Excel file that offers to help people set up fantasy sports competitions related to the international soccer championship, and also attempts to market itself specifically to fans of the English Premiership, one of the world’s top professional leagues.

Once the World Cup virus has infected a PC, it begins forwarding itself to other people using the corrupted machine and may also send itself to people listed in any e-mail client software on the device, Sophos said.

The Excel virus marks the second World Cup-oriented attack identified by the company in the last week. On May 4, Sophos detailed a Trojan virus dubbed Troj/Haxdoor-IN, which cloaked itself as a wall chart of the teams competing in the tourney that fans could print out and use to follow the action.

The threat was noticed as it was distributed via spam e-mail, and while it specifically targeted speakers of German, the virus could easily be adapted to other languages, researchers said.

As in the United States, where large amounts of office workers wager on the NCAA’s Men Basketball Championship by joining related Web sites or filling out electronic forms, soccer fans abroad are increasingly creating their own leagues for following the World Cup, said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

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