World Cup fever is escalating among hackers, with security vendor Sophos revealing a new worm, and warning that seemingly harmless World Cup screensavers, spreadsheets and electronic wall charts are ideal vehicles to spread viruses and worms.

The latest e-mail worm includes the German-language message "WM-Tickets" or "Weltmeisterschaft," and contains an attachment, which, when opened, activates the W32/Zasran-A worm. The worm is programmed to send itself to addresses stored in a Microsoft Outlook address book and manipulate security settings to give hackers access to other personal information stored in users' PCs. Additional information is available here.

The Zasran-A worm is the second World Cup-related virus, following one found in a self-extracting Excel file that claims to contain the game plan for the soccer tournament. The German-language e-mail contains the message "Fussball Weltmeisterschaft 2006 in Deutschland" (2006 World Cup Soccer Tournament in Germany) and the link "googlebook.exe."

When clicked, the link installs a Trojan horse on users' PCs. The Trojan program appears to have originated from a server in the U.S., according to the Baden-Württemberg State Bureau of Criminal Investigation (LKA).

Sophos urges users to be extra vigilant against virus threats as excitement grows over the World Cup games.

The World Cup has prompted viruses in the past, and will likely in the future as well. Ahead of the World Cup games in France in 1998, the WM97/ZMK-J virus asked PC users to gamble on who the winner could be, and if the user didn't choose the right team, it triggered a warhead that was capable of erasing all data on the hard drive, according to Sophos.

Last year, the world's governing soccer body, FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), warned fans and others that its name was being abused in a global phishing scam.

Several lottery companies had sent unsolicited, official-looking e-mail around the globe, announcing that recipients had won a lottery and requesting personal data, including bank account information, for them to claim the prize money. The lotteries claimed to be organised on behalf of, or in association with, FIFA as well as the German organisers of the World Cup and their South African counterparts for the 2010 games.