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Virus threat downgraded

The potency of the Babylonia virus diminishes now that an Internet site it used to update itself has been shut down.

The threat of the Babylonia virus has diminished now that an Internet site it used to update itself has been shut down.

Antivirus software maker TrendMicro said the disconnection of a Web site in Japan called SOKA4EVER reduces the risk of the Babylonia virus to "low." The virus, which appeared Monday, relied on the site to store software that could be downloaded to the infected computer, raising the possibility of a virus whose behavior changes.

The Web site is owned by Source of Kaos, TrendMicro said. The Web site was closed down after the Melissa virus was released last spring, but the site re-emerged as SOKA4EVER.

A virus is a piece of software that spreads copies of itself from one computer to another. Some viruses are benign but others cause damage such as the destruction of files. The widespread use of email, combined with the use of more elaborate email messages, has provided an effective new means for viruses to spread.

Although antivirus companies provide software features that claim to detect viruses by their behavior, many new viruses still slip under the radar, requiring that customers update their antivirus software frequently.

Meanwhile, a new version of an existing self-replicating email virus has been discovered, but it has yet to cause major problems, antivirus software makers said.

The virus, a variant of the Worm.ExploreZip virus called, can automatically send itself to email addresses located on people's hard drives and can delete Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. Security experts say the virus isn't a threat yet.

Antivirus software maker Computer Associates said the virus has affected two of its customers. Symantec, however, said it has received no reports from customers and doesn't believe it's been released in the "wild," or infected users at large.

"It's not something that will cause real harm now, but it's something people should be aware of," said Narender Mangalam, CA's security director.

The new virus affects users of Microsoft email software on Windows machines. It arrives as a compressed file as part of an email message and can spread when users click on the file. The infected attachment is titled "File_Zipputi.exe."

The new virus comes in a larger file and includes Italian text instead of English, said Mangalam. CA has updated its antivirus software to detect the new virus.

Because the virus comes with Italian text, a Symantec spokeswoman said the company doesn't expect many people will click on the attachment and cause a virus outbreak.