Computer Associates executives said its German research lab found the virus on a Web site today that can automatically send itself to every email address on a recipient's hard drive. However, it has not yet been released in the "wild," or infected users at large.
The new virus--named "Cholera" by CA--is not harmful, but that could change if the virus spreads, or more harmful versions are created. Mutated versions, for instance, could allow the virus to delete data, for example. Cholera infects Windows machines, the company said.
"It's not doing any harm as of now, but it could overload email servers," said Narender Mangalan, CA's product manager for antivirus software.
Like the Melissa and Worm.ExploreZip viruses that attacked computers this year, Cholera is self-propagating. The Cholera virus comes in an email attachment that looks like a self-extracting program, and can replicate by sending itself automatically to all the email addresses in a computer's hard drive, CA's Mangalan said.
Recipients, consequently, could inadvertently send it to all the email addresses on their hard drives.
CA is updating its antivirus software to recognize and eliminate the virus and is suggesting computer users get software updates from their antivirus software providers.