Topic: Attack of the Tuxissa Virus
This advisory is intended primarily for network administrators
responsible for luser configuration and maintenance.
Attack of the Tuxissa Virus
March 29, 1999
What started out as a prank posting to comp.os.linux.advocacy
yesterday has turned into one of the most significant viruses in
The creator of the virus, who goes by the
moniker "Anonymous Longhair", modified the well-known Melissa
virus to download and install Linux on infected machines.
"It's a work of art," one Linux advocate told Humorix after he
looked through the Tuxissa virus source code.
"This virus goes
well beyond the feeble troublemaking of Melissa."
enumerated some of the tasks the virus performs in the
background while the user is blissfully playing Solitaire:
Once the virus is activated, it first works on propogating
itself. It has a built-in email harvesting module that downloads
all the pages referenced in the user's Internet Explorer
bookmarks and scans them for email addresses. Using Outlook, the
virus sends a copy of itself to every email address it comes
After it has successfully reproduced, the virus begins the
tricky process of upgrading the system to Linux.
virus modifies AUTOEXEC.BAT so that the virus will be
re-activated if the system crashes or is shut down while the
upgrade is in process. Second, the virus downloads a
stripped-down Slackware distribution, using a lengthy list of
mirror sites to prevent the virus from overloading any one
Then the virus configures a UMSDOS filesystem to install Linux
Since this filesystem resides on a FAT partition, there is
no need to re-partition the hard drive, one of the few actions
that the Word macro language doesn't allow.
Next, the virus uncompresses the downloaded files into the new
The virus then permanently deletes all copies
of the Windows Registry, virtually preventing the user from
booting into Windows without a re-install. After modifying the
boot sector, the virus terminates its own life by rebooting the
system. The computer boots into the Slackware setup program,
which automatically finishes the installation of Linux.
Finally, the dazed user is presented with the Linux login prompt
and the text, "Welcome to Linux.
You'll never want to use
Windows again. Type 'root' to begin..."
The whole process take about two hours, assuming the user has a
decent Internet connection.
Since the virus runs invisibly in
the background, the user has no chance to stop it until it's too
The email message that the virus is attached to has the subject
"Important Message About Windows Security".
The text of the
body says, "I want to let you know about some security problems
I've uncovered in Windows 95/98/NT, Office 95/97, and Outlook.
It's critically important that you protect your system against
Visit these sites for more information..."
rest of the message contains 42 links to sites about Linux and
Slashdot is one of those links.
"That could spell trouble," one
Slashdot expert told Humorix.
"Slashdot could fall victim to
the new 'Macro Virus Effect' if this virus continues to
propogate at its present exponential growth rate.
portal site, another site present on the virus' links list,
seems to be quite sluggish right now..."
Details on how the virus started are a bit sketchy.
"Anonymous Longhair" who created it only posted it to Usenet as
an early April Fool's gag, a demonstration of how easy it would
be to mount a "Linux revolution".
Some other Usenet reader is
responsible for actually spreading the virus into the wild.
observer speculated, "I imagine the virus was first sent to the
addresses of several well-known spammers.
The virus probably
latched on to the spammer's email lists and began propagating at
a fantastic rate.
With no boundary to its growth, this thing
could wind up infecting every single Net-connected Wintel box in
Wouldn't that be a shame!"
Linus Torvalds, who just left for a two week vacation, was
unavailable for comment at press time.
We have a strong feeling
that his vacation will be cut short very soon...
James S. Baughn