A malicious new computer virus is making the rounds this week, just a week after the W32/BadTrans-B propagated through the Inboxes of unsuspecting users. And like last week's outbreak, the new worm, dubbed Goner, is targeted at unsophisticated Outlook users who lack basic security knowledge. But Goner is a bit more nefarious than other worms, as it deletes files on the user's computer, including those that might otherwise protect the system from attack. By some estimates, there are already hundreds of thousands of infected machines out there, a number that is expected to grow as the week progresses.

What's sad about Goner is that its so obviously a virus. Infected email arrives with an email message that reads, "When I saw this screen saver, I immediately thought about you. I am in a harry \[sic\], I promise you will love it!" An attachment named "Gone.scr" contains the virus. Users have to actually execute the attachment to become infected. It deletes certain firewall and anti-virus software files, and sends an infected message to everyone in your address book.

Because Goner is not based on previous worms, anti-virus programs will need to be updated before they can detect and remove its code; as of this writing, most of the leading AV packages have indeed been updated, so be sure to download any new virus definitions. It affects Outlook, Outlook Express, and, curiously, ICQ, a popular instant messaging application made by AOL.