John Bryant
Arizona Computer Consultant
(602) 861-1738

Sober.Q - A Horror Story

(May 15, 2005)

Q: "This morning I found 15 German emails in my inbox. I don’t know what they say, but each email has a file attached to it. Do I have a virus?”

Those email attachments are infected with the Sober virus. If you’ve opened the attachment, then you are infected with Sober.Q.

The tale of the Sober virus reads more like the teaser for Stephen King’s next horror novel than a computer story. It is the saga of an evil genius who uses a previously mutated incarnation and an army of worm-infested zombies to bring his newest creation to life and spread his warped nightmare to millions around the world.

As a virus, Sober has had an extraordinary life span. It started off in 2003 as minor irritation in Germany and has evolved through seventeen variations in the past two years. Sober.Q is a massive spam campaign – written in German – with links to various right-wing and Neo Nazi news articles on the web. In addition to hate propaganda, Sober.Q also includes a viral email attachment. If that attachment is opened, your system will be turned into a “Zombie” – a quaint pet name for a PC that is under the control of (and does the bidding for) a virus or a hacker. Not only will your anti-virus program be knocked out, but your loveable computer will be thoroughly ransacked for email addresses of friends, neighbors and acquaintances which will then be sent their very own email copy of this devious monstrocity.

Oh, it gets better …

Once your system is infected with Sober.Q, it is now ready to receive and distribute future versions of Sober automatically. The “Q” version was successfully distributed to over 10 million email inboxes this weekend because thousands of running computers were already infected with an earlier Sober version. These “Zombie” computers received the newest version and immediately forwarded it to millions of others.

Back to Basics: A Sober Defense:

Computer Maxim #8 is your first line of defense against viruses such as Sober.Q:

Computer Maxim #8
Computers: If they’re not protected, they’re infected.
Email attachments: If it’s unexpected, it’s infected

The Sober.Q virus should not be a major problem in the US, because the subject, text and email attachments are primarily in German. Yet thousands of computers in the US are infected! This means people are still opening these email attachments. Never open an unexpected email attachment, even if it is from a friend. Send it back and ask for verification. If your computer is not protected with a good up-to-date virus scanner, then you are unprotected and prone to virus infections. The Sober.Q virus was released this weekend – has your virus scanner been updated since then?

If you are already infected with any variant of the Sober virus, you need to clean it from your system immediately. A Sober Virus Removal Tool has been released that you can safely download and run to get rid of this virus.

As a final note, we certainly have not seen the last of the Sober Virus. Make sure your system is protected, don’t open unexpected email attachments and beware of Zombies bearing gifts!

(May 15, 2005)
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or you can call me at (602) 861-1738.

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