Pretty Girl virus hits computers across Vietnam

More than 20 000 computers in Vietnam have been infected by a sophisticated new computer virus, unleashed by a Vietnamese programmer, in one day.

The “Gai Xinh” (Pretty Girl) virus uses Yahoo Messenger to infect computers when users click on a link ostensibly from an instant-messenger contact. Clicking on the link sends an instant message with the same link to all Yahoo contacts, but it was limited to certain Vietnamese-language websites .

The virus first appeared on Monday noon and infected some 2,400 computers per hour, Nguyen Tu Quang, director of the Bach Khoa Internet work Security Centre, a leading Vietnamese anti-virus software provider .

Quang said the sophistication of the virus was impressive, reflecting the growing skill of Vietnamese hackers even as the country races to train information-technology professionals.

“This is the dark side of IT development,” Quang said, adding that his firm is trying to find out who wrote the “Pretty Girl” bug. “He must be a good programmer to be able to write such an awful virus that spreads all over so quickly.” The virus poses little global threat, however, because its messages inviting users to view photos of beautiful women are in Vietnamese.

Quang said about 30 computer viruses had originated in Vietnam since 1993, but “Pretty Girl” was the first to use instant messaging.

Vietnam’s infant information-technology industry is growing at an estimated 30 percent each year, exporting $70 million in software last year, according to government statistics.

Internet use has become more common in Vietnam in the past five years, with the number of Internet users jumping from just 1 million in 2001 to nearly 12 million this year.