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Damage minimal from Italian "Love" bug

Anti-virus experts in Europe say that an Italian variant of the "Love" bug, thought to be spreading with speed during the night, appears to have been contained.

    Anti-virus experts in Europe said Thursday that an Italian variant of the "Love" bug, thought to be spreading with speed during the night, appears to have been contained.

    U.S. anti-virus company Trend Micro reported Wednesday that the virus, known as "Cartolina," had hit 10 companies in Germany, France and Italy, indicating that it could blow up worldwide.

    Virus fighters said Thursday that the bug so far appears not to have bitten other companies. British anti-virus company Sophos received just one report; Finnish-based vendor F-Secure reported only a "handful" of incidents; and anti-virus company Symantec said that none of its customers were affected.

    Experts say the virus is unlikely to see much success outside its native Italy because it is written in Italian. Nevertheless, some remain on guard. "It could be a risk because it is of the type that spreads quickly," said Paul Brettle, product consultant for F-Secure. "But until it gets to the point where it can start spreading exponentially, it is not."

    Cartolina is a variant of the "Love" bug, which wreaked havoc around the world last May. The virus comes in the form of an e-mail attachment named CARTOLINA.VBS that is engineered to spread to all the e-mail addresses found on an infected computer system. The virus also changes the home page of Internet Explorer to an Italian music site.

    The e-mail that transports the virus has the subject line "C'? una cartolina per te!" meaning "There's a postcard for you!"

    Recent research indicates that few have learned the lesson from the chaos and damage caused by the "Love" bug and its variants. Research from anti-virus company MessageLab indicates that many people still will open a strange e-mail with an intriguing subject. "Anyone practicing 'safe computing' would never have been infected by (Cartolina) anyway," said Graham Cluely, chief technologist for Sophos. "They would not have double-clicked on the unsolicited attached file, especially if (they didn't) speak Italian."