Virus Warning.. Be Wary…

This morning when I came down to my PC I found a Skype chat session with some "strange" wording including something that was going to make me "populr". And then the word "erotic" appeared in a link. Once again my calloused sense of intuition said "Do Not Click".

Skype Heartbeat is reporting a virus; Skype is working with several security software publishers to address the issue.

Skype has learned that a computer virus called “w32/Ramex.A” is affecting users of Skype for Windows. Users whose computers are infected with this virus will send a chat message to other Skype users asking them to click on a web link that can infect the computer of the person who receives the message.

Please note that Skype users ONLY become infected after they have downloaded the link and run the malicious software. The chat message, of which there are several versions, is cleverly written and may appear to be a legitimate chat message, which may fool some users into clicking on the link.

And the best protection you can have against these issues is to ensure you have some kind of Internet security software installed on your PC. For many years I have used Norton products; in fact, I also had an anti-virus update this morning which may have been related to this virus. Symantec has this to say about Minimizing the Risks of Instant Messaging:

IM vulnerabilities
The things that make instant messaging useful also make it risky.

  • Most IM tools offer a method for sending and receiving file attachments — a major point of vulnerability. IM attachments, just like email attachments, can carry destructive viruses, Trojan horses, and worms.
  • There’s also a new breed of IM worms. To your friends and colleagues, it appears as though they’re receiving a message from you. In reality, the message is generated by a worm, and may contain a link to a Web site that automatically downloads another bit of malicious code.
  • Because it’s so easy to create an IM identity, instant messaging is also a ripe medium for online scams, identity theft, and other predatory behavior. Cybercriminals use all sorts of devious methods — including hacking into accounts and impersonating legitimate users — to gain trust and elicit information from unwitting IM users.
  • Finally, there’s spim. Spim — the name given spam sent over IM — is on the rise. Some spim can contain offensive language or links to Web sites with content inappropriate for children.

Obviously Skype is taking this issue very seriously. Consider yourself warned.

If you do not have security software installed and are technically capable, the Heartbeat post does provide a method to remove the virus:

There are two ways to get rid of the worm: the normal way and the techhead way. Most users should NOT attempt to edit their computer’s registry manually. For most people, downloading and/or updating their anti-virus software, and scanning their computer to detect and remove the worm, is the way to go.

One additional step beyond what is given in the Heartbeat post: according to some Skype forum discussions, you also need to go to Tools | Options | Advanced and click on "Manage other programs’ access to Skype". (Or bypass all these steps by clicking on the double arrows in your status bar to open the Skype – Manage API Access window.)

  • Review all the programs that are authorized to link to Skype and remove any ".exe"’s that appear "foreign" to what you know you have installed. (And if you remove a working application by mistake, you will simply be asked to authorize its link to Skype next time you load the program).

Tags: Skype, Skype virus, Symantec, Norton Internet Security, Skype Heartbeat

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.
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