A new version of the SoBig computer worm is expected any day, and this one will lead to a massive increase in spam (as if we’re not overwhelmed by it already). The SoBig.F worm was designed to make computers all over the world send out a flood of spam. Some experts say that over half the spam you are receiving right now is a result of the virus.

Will Knight writes in New Scientist that there have been six different versions of SoBig so far, one of them released right after another. Each one enables an infected computer to be used by spammers to reroute junk email, evading efforts to block it.

Steve Linford, of Spamhaus, says the earlier virus, SoBig.E, led to a huge increase in spam when it was released in June. SoBig.E infected fewer computers than SoBig.F, meaning even more spam is on the way. He says, “SoBig.F would have created a much bigger network of zombies.”

Anti-virus researcher Graham Cluley says, “If future variants of SoBig implement a spamming relay, then the mailboxes of hundreds of thousands of people may become clogged.”

Paul Wood, of Message Labs, says it has traced between 60 and 70% of the spam it sees to zombie servers that are being used in this way. He says, “We suddenly see a burst of viruses coming out of a machine and then, maybe a few days afterwards, lots of spam, when we haven’t seen spam from that machine before.”

And it’s not likely to stop soon. Linford says, “They need to keep opening more and more proxies. There will be a SoBig.G, a SoBig.H and so on.”

Have we got the kind of government that can protect us from this deluge?

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