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:Chechen: Playgirls, the Kremlin and Chechen rebels

IT could have come from the pages of a Tom Clancy novel, but PC users tempted to view girlie pictures on their screens this Christmas should beware. They could find themselves unwittingly recruited into an international plot to crash Chechen rebel websites.

A super-virus disguised as nude pictures is being used to attack internet sites run by insurgents in the Northern Caucasus. Whoever launched the new virus - and the suspicion is that it may not be a million miles away from the Kremlin - is betting that seasonal high spirits will prompt male PC users to open e-mail attachments that promise to show pictures of naked women. The virus is spread through e-mail with an attached file called Playgirls2.exe - a name clearly designed to appeal to the male libido.

But anyone unwise enough to click on the attachments will not see titillating pictures. Instead the virus, the W32/Maslan-C worm, takes control of the PC and uses it for what appear to be political ends. The virus hides inside the PC and waits until the first day of every month to attack the Chechen rebel sites. The attacks take the form of what are called "distributed denial-of-service attacks". This means they hijack infected computers and use them to fire so many messages at the targeted websites that they collapse under the strain, blasting them off the internet.

PCs that run the attached file also pass the virus on to other e-mail users, who may then also become participants in attacks on separatist websites.

The virus in question is exclusively targeting Chechen rebel websites such as and This has led security experts to conclude that whoever launched the virus is politically motivated, with growing suspicion of Russian involvement.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for computer security firm Sophos, said: "These websites play a key role in the propaganda war between the Chechen rebels and the Kremlin. Clearly whoever has written the virus wants to make it harder for the Chechen separatists to publish information about their cause on the internet."

Though there is no proof linking the Kremlin to the virus, its emergence follows attempts by the Russians to shut down the websites. According to Sophos, the Russian foreign ministry is reported to have asked their Lithuanian counterparts why websites run by Chechen separatists have recently resumed activity.

Sophos warns that the virus poses a dangerous threat to computers in companies across the English-speaking world. "Whether you agree with the worm's intention or not, spreading a virus which infects innocent computers and launches attacks against websites is a criminal offence," said Cluley.

Tony Glover
The Business Online
[tags]chechnya, chechen, russia, war[/tags]


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