War With Iraq Will Mean Virus Outbreak, Hacker Threatens

A Malaysian virus writer who is sympathetic to the cause of the al-Qaeda terrorist group and Iraq and has been connected to at least five other malicious-code outbreaks is threatening to release a megavirus if the U.S. attacks Iraq.

The virus writer, who goes by the handle Melhacker and whose real name is believed to be Vladimor Chamlkovic, is thought to have written or been involved in the development of the VBS.OsamaLaden@mm, Melhack, Kamil, BleBla.J and Nedal worms.

However, in an exclusive interview last week with Computerworld, Melhacker confirmed earlier reports by cybersecurity company iDefense that he has developed and tested a "three-in-one" megaworm code-named Scezda that combines features from the well-known SirCam, Klez and Nimda worms.

The Worm Is Ready

"This is a real Internet computer worm," said Melhacker. "I will attack or launch this worm if America attacks Iraq." The worm has been ready and fully tested in his lab since August, he said. Melhacker also confirmed earlier intelligence reports that he has ties to both Russian hackers and Pakistani virus writers.

Brian Kelly, president and CEO of iDefense, said that although Melhacker hasn't proved adept at seeding new worms in the wild, this one could be difficult to stop.

IDefense quietly warned its clients earlier this month about the potential for such a worm to hit the Internet. It said companies should move to a heightened state of alert and watch for suspicious Internet traffic and e-mails if Iraq is attacked.

"If he were to be successful with this one, it could be very serious," said Kelly. "Although we are aware of his contacts with Russian and Palestinian code-authoring groups, we're not yet sure how strong those relationships are."

Vincent Gullotto, vice president of the Anti-Virus Emergency Response Team at McAfee Security, a division of Network Associates Inc., said the threat posed by Scezda is completely dependent on whether Melhacker is successful in getting it to propagate.

"If he is, it could be very large," said Gullotto.

But it's difficult to speculate, because there have been many such viruses that have gone nowhere, he said. "Until we see the virus moving in the wild, we consider it to be a low risk," Gullotto said.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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