By JOHN SCHWARTZ Today's New York Times
A new malicious computer virus named Goner began making the rounds of the online world yesterday like an Internet IQ test. Anyone who has not learned the most important computer security message of the last two years — do not open any unexpected files that come attached to e-mail messages — ends up infecting the computer.
Once installed, the Goner program — technically known as a worm — looks for and deletes a number of programs, including Internet security programs like ZoneAlarm. If the victim uses the Microsoft (news/quote) Outlook e- mail program, Goner sends itself to those in the e-mail address book. It can also be spread through ICQ, an Internet instant-message system.
Like several predecessors, the new virus spread quickly, affecting companies and individuals using Microsoft Outlook, according to experts at several computer security companies. One, Network Associates (news/quote), said customers had reported more than 100,000 infected machines.
Because it is new, Goner is not automatically blocked by many security screens looking for features of older viruses. Most antivirus companies had patches ready yesterday.
The program arrives in an e-mail message that says, "When I saw this screen saver, I immediately thought about you," and, "I am in a harry [sic], I promise you will love it!" The file attached to the message is named "Gone.scr."
"If that doesn't look like a virus, nothing does," scoffed David M. Perry, the global director of education for Trend Micro (news/quote), a computer security company based in Tokyo. Despite extensive warnings, he said, people still open unexpected attachments. "They call and say, `I downloaded it and I clicked on it — what should I have seen?' "
" `Your pink slip,' " he explained in a mock response, " `because you're an idiot.' "
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