Alerts issued for new virus -- toadie.exe

Antivirus software vendors are warning their users of a new virus, toadie.exe, which is spreading across Internet chat sites and e-mail in the form of an executable program.

Toadie is classified as a direct infector style virus, because it searches out other executable programs and infects them with itself when it is activated by a user. Toadie is not capable of automatically sending itself over e-mail as the infamous Melissa virus did, but it will tag along on executable files from one system to another. The virus can rapidly replicate itself across Internet chat sites using the Internet Relay Command (IRC), however, without the knowledge of the sender, according to antivirus software vendor Network Associates Inc (NAI), which is set to issue an alert on the virus last week.

"It will attempt to send itself via IRC if you happen to be using Internet chat at the time. People will think you are sending this to them, when in fact you don't realise it," said Sal Viveros, group marketing manager for Total Virus Defense at NAI. "It would be similar to what happened with the 'Frog in a Blender'" executable file that carried the Chernobyl virus with it, he added.

There are currently four different variants of Toadie that NAI is researching, two of which are in "the wild", or infecting systems across the Internet, and so far no dangerous payload has been discovered. The virus can corrupt infected files, however, and make them unusable, according to Viveros.

Infected users will be able to see a DOS box appear whenever they open an executable file, which says "You are infected with Toadie", but users with faster and more powerful systems will only see the message for a moment.

While only categorising toadie.exe as a medium-risk virus, NAI has received several copies of the virus from its users and recommends they update their antivirus software.

"We believe at this point that it is just going out and spreading and showing this message saying you've been infected with Toadie," Viveros said. "But as always, you need to make sure you are keeping your antivirus software updated regularly."

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