Virus infects campus e-mail
Bug spreads to address books through special attachment

by Sally Claunch

Special to The Shorthorn

Academic Computing Services sent out memos Wednesday to all faculty and staff after detecting the Melissa e-mail virus on campus. Sean Skinner, computer user service specialist in the office of academic computing services, said that the university detected the virus Wednesday, and it came from Military Science Department computers. From there, it spread all over campus. The virus crashes computer servers by reading the user's e-mail address book and sending out a message to the first 50 addresses on the list. "We've hidden the address book on our computers so the virus can't spread," he said. "We'll get rid of the infected files over the weekend, and bring the address book back on Monday." Skinner said when the infected e-mail appears in a users in-box, it will say "Important Message From..." When the user opens the mail, the message will say, "Here's that document you asked for...don't show it to anyone." There will be a Microsoft Word document attached to the message that contains a listing of pornographic Internet Web sites. Once the document is opened, the virus goes to work, sending the same message to the first 50 addresses. The virus does not damage the individual computer, but because each infected computer is sending out messages, the sheer bulk of the amount of e-mail is crashing servers in companies and state agencies. Some companies that have been affected are Lucent Technologies, Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. At Microsoft, e-mail was temporarily halted. Because the virus sends the message to the first 50 addresses, people with names beginning with A or B are particularly swamped with the messages because most address books list names alphabetically. The best way to combat Melissa is to not open a document that says "Important message" even if it's from a friend. If the e-mail is opened and the message "Here's that document you asked for...don't show it to anyone" appears, users should not open the attachment. If a computer has already been infected, the user should update any virus software and use it immediately. Once the virus is in the system, it will infiltrate any new Microsoft Word document. Faizan Malik, information systems senior, said he is concerned about the virus. "It's shutting all the e-mails of the big companies," he said. "If I saw it here, I would report it and take steps to fix my machine." A user can contact Microsoft's Web site to get information about fighting the virus at, http://officeupdate.microsoft.com/ downloaddetails/wd97sp.htm. The site has information about downloading anti-virus software. Students may also access the university Web site at http://microsys.uta.edu and then click on "UTA Virus Prevention" for details on Melissa.

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