Blackworm may sound like something that worries farmers with crops in the field, but the people really concerned about it are folks like Mike Corn.
Corn may have the last name for it, but he doesn't farm. He's the director of security services and information privacy at the University of Illinois Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services division.
And Blackworm, set to do its dirty work automatically on Friday, is the latest threat posed by viruslike malicious computer software passed via the Internet.
Blackworm, estimated to have infected roughly 700,000 computers worldwide already, is different and considered more dangerous. Rather than simply trying to spread itself, slowing down and creating instabilities on computers and networks in the process, it overwrites Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel files. It also overwrites other popular file types such as .pdf, .zip and Photo shop files on infected machines.
"It does have the potential to damage ... the basic stuff people use every day," Corn said.
The worm also will try to disable and delete out-of-date antivirus programs.
Blackworm is spread through e-mail attachments. Once one computer on a network becomes infected, however, that computer will try to infect all the other computers on the network.
E-mail subject lines reportedly used in the malicious e-mails include: "The Best Videoclip Ever," "SeX.mpg," "Miss Lebanon 2006" and "Kama Sutra pics." Opening the attachments would release the virus.
Corn said users can protect themselves by updating their antivirus software with the latest patches available.
Even those who updated their antivirus software at the beginning of the year should update again now to ensure that the latest protections against Blackworm are installed, he said.
Blackworm could affect the UI, Corn said. But he said the Spam Control system used by his group should stop the worm from spreading. The system blocks and automatically deletes e-mails with virus attachments.
"On campus at least we feel like we're pretty prepared for this," Corn said. "At the same time, I don't want people to feel complacent."
Blackworm only affects computers running Microsoft's Windows operating system.