Seemingly harmless World Cup screensavers, spreadsheets and electronic wall charts could provide the ideal vehicles for virus and worm propagation. Sophos is therefore advising employees and home PC users not to open unsolicited emails, download material from the internet or use anything on their computer which is not known to be virus-free. "Millions of people worldwide will be following the World Cup and will be using the internet and email to keep up to date with all the action," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant, Sophos Anti-Virus. "We have already seen viruses utilising the popularity of celebrities like Anna Kournikova and Britney Spears; David Beckham or Michael Owen could be next. Amidst the enthusiasm for the competition, it's important that users maintain a solid defence."
The World Cup has provided the inspiration for viruses in the past, and the possibility of it happening again should not be ruled out. In 1998, in the run-up to the World Cup competition in France, the WM97/ZMK-J virus asked infected victims to gamble on who the winner might be, and if the user did not choose the right team triggered a warhead which was capable of wiping all the data off the hard drive.
The message to computer users is to remain as vigilant as England's defence in the 1966 World Cup final in order to prevent virus writers scoring virtual goals. As ever, those companies following safe computing guidelines can significantly reduce their chances of being hit by a new virus.