An Epidemic Of Honor System Viruses

Fake News written by James Baughn on Saturday, July 8, 2000

from the beware-of-geeks-bearing-email-messages dept.

Linux users have always laughed at the Stage 3 Windows lusers who have to put up with macro viruses. But now a new breed of virus has emerged in the Unix world -- and it's spreading like wildfire. These "honor system" viruses, which first popped up during the Love Bug debacle, request the user to perform some act and then pass the virus on to friends and colleagues. Over the past two months these memes have mutated and propagated at a fantastic rate.

The original honor system virus told recipients to "randomly delete numerous files from your system". Indeed, many people did obey that command by wiping out their Windows partition or deleting all of those unreadable .doc files that clueless friends like to send.

Said one "victim" of this virus, "I've been using Linux for so long that I completely forgot I even had an electron-wasting Windows partition. Thanks to this virus, and its helpful reminder to delete files, I was able to free up beaucoup space on my drive to make room for even more pirated MP3's. You can be sure I passed on this virus to everyone I knew -- it's the least I could do to help out the Linux community."

Other variations have entered into the wild, including "Newbie Nabber", designed to teach a lesson to inexperienced Linux converts. The message coaxes the recipient into executing the attached Perl script to "fix a serious security hole in the Linux kernel that has just been uncovered by security professionals at Red Hat." As you can imagine, the script is a Trojan horse that actually patches the user's mail client to automatically execute Perl and shell script attachments (hey, if it works for Microsoft...). It then greps the luser's hard drive for email addresses and sends a copy of itself to each of them.

Finally, the virus/Trojan outputs this message... "Security hole found between chair and monitor. Please contact your system administrator and request a "cluestick" in order to fix this gaping hole. Have a nice day. Oh, and by the way, I just deleted your hidden cache of pornography."

Our Vast Spy Network(tm) located the friend of the friend of the girlfriend of the person who supposedly created the Newbie Nabber script. He said, "Well, it's Darwin in action. The naive users victimized by this meme will either learn a valuable lesson or get fed up with Linux and return to Windows. Either way we thin out the herd."

A similar virus has also been found in the wild that targets 31337 Script Kiddies by enticing them to run an attached script (as root) that will "hack into the Microsoft website and retrieve the Windows Millennium source code". This Trojan actually replicates itself and then commits suicide by executing "mke2fs /dev/hda1", the Linux equivalent of FORMAT C:, but without the "Are you sure?" prompt.

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