Are you at risk from 'suicide virus' that destroys your computer

A new kind of virus will spy on anything you type online and will destroy your computer if it thinks it has been detected

Updated: 
spyware concepts, with message on enter key of keyboard.

Rombertik is a new 'suicide' virus that infects your computer through spam emails. Once it has secretly installed itself, it can intercept anything you type in online. It will then communicate your user names and passwords to an attacker-controlled server. And if your PC is clever enough to identify that malware has been installed, the virus automatically destroys your computer.

The virus was given the name Rombertik by Cisco Systems, which blogged about it on Monday. It warned PC users that spam emails were being sent out, encouraging people to click on a link.

It included an example of one bogus email claiming to be from the "Windows Corporation", saying the company wants to work with the recipient, but that they need to download a specifications document to see if they are compatible. Once someone clicks on the attachment, the virus automatically downloads to their computer.

Destruction

Once it is installed, it then starts running checks to see if it has been spotted. The blog explained: "Before Rombertik begins the process of spying on users, Rombertik will perform one last check to ensure it is not being analyzed in memory. If this check fails, Rombertik will attempt to destroy the Master Boot Record and restart the computer to render it unusable." This is why it is being called a 'suicide virus'.

It works by attacking the part of the PC's hard drive that the computer needs to check before it loads the operating system. By disabling this part of the hard drive, and then restarting, when the computer tries to start up again, it cannot find this part of the hard drive, and therefore cannot load. The screen simply reads 'Carbon crack attempt, failed." If it cannot attack this part of the hard drive, instead it will attack the home folder, which has the same effect.

Cisco warned that it expected the kinds of methods and behaviours used by the virus to be adopted by others producing malware in future, raising the threat.

Protect yourself

The experts say the best way to protect your computer is to install anti-virus software, and make sure it is regularly updated. They add that people should avoid clicking on attachments that come from people they do not know.

Even if they come from someone you know, it's also worth being careful about attachments, as email can get infected and send messages from accounts you trust. Unless you are expecting something specific, it's worth checking with the person who sent you an attachment, to see if it is genuine.

It's also worth setting up your email to block certain types of attachment, so the malware is less likely to get through in the first place.

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