It’s amazing that the unwitting computer users of 2019 are still clicking on suspicious attachments considering the havoc such files have been wreaking for decades.

Back in August 2003, the SoBig.F virus — the sixth variant of the SoBig worm that had been plaguing network admins for months — arrived. It caused more than an estimated $50 million worth of damage in the U.S., grounded Air Canada, and slowed freight and computer traffic. At its peak, experts estimated that one in 17 emails across all email traffic carried SoBig.F. AOL even scanned 40.5 million emails and found SoBig.F in more than half.

Origins of the SoBig.F worm

The worm arrived as an attachment to an email with a seemingly innocuous header: “Re: Thank you!” or “Re: Your application” or similar. It then instructed the recipient to view the attachment for details. 

Once launched, the attachment file scanned the computer for email addresses, sending itself out to everyone in the user’s address book using a built-in email program. Unusually, the original SoBig virus released in January 2003 arrived from a “big@boss.com” email address rather than from a faked trusted sender address. The virus itself was a .pif or .scr file — two file types network administrators of the day were less likely to block.

It’s thought the virus originated as a pornographic picture in a Usenet group. SoBig.F deactivated itself on September 10 — opening the door for yet another worm.

Photo: Scott Webb / Unsplash

Kate Johanns

Posted by Kate Johanns

Kate Johanns is a communications professional and freelance writer with more than 13 years of experience in publishing and marketing.

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