Experts warn of new cable virus

ethernet cable

Experts have identified a worrying new generation of computer viruses that can lie dormant in Ethernet cables for many years. The discovery means that many of us will have to seriously reconsider how we use computer hardware.

"The virus can remain inert for decades and is reanimated once it is brought into contact with electrical equipment," said Bob Trojan of internet security firm Oops Corp. "Any kind of electrical equipment will bring it out of hibernation. For instance, we've even seen it become active when brought into the close proximity of a toaster, although obviously it's not likely to do much damage beyond ruining the odd breakfast. But when plugged into a computer it has the potential to deliver a crippling payload."

The company has so far only encountered the virus in Ethernet cables, but they cannot yet rule out the possibility of it being carried by other leads such as power cords and monitor connections. Indeed, under laboratory conditions they were able to infect a piece of twine with the virus, although this is of limited concern since only a handful of PCs manufactured in the last ten years rely on string to any great extent.

Nevertheless, the company is keen to stress that people should adhere to the following basic guidance to minimise risk of infection:

Never share cables. This is the surest way for the infection to spread from machine to machine.

Always empty cables when you've finished with them. Data residues will remain in an Ethernet cable even after the device has been switched off, and this can harbour the virus. To empty the cable, start at one end and wind into a tight coil. This will squeeze the unwanted data out of the other end.

Sterilise your cable. Specialist products are available for this, but any household sterilising fluid will do the job. However, to be absolutely certain that your cable is clean, it should be boiled for at least two hours prior to use.

Avoid old or damaged cables. Bare wires and cracked insulation could present and easy way for the virus to get in. And if your cable is blotchy, pockmarked or covered in weeping sores, then this is a sure sign that it is infected.

"There really is very little danger as long as people act sensibly," said Mr Trojan. "Be careful, be aware of the signs and, for heaven's sake, if your monitor appears blurry, your disc drive is full of mucus or your mouse develops a cough, seek expert help immediately."

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