On Friday March 26, 1999 an e-mail virus named "Melissa" slipped into systems via e-mail and forcing computers to fire off dozens of infected messages to friends and colleagues. Once opened, the virus immediately reads the user's e-mail address book and sends an infected message to the first 50 entries. Although the virus apparently causes no permanent damage to a computer, its clogging affects were far-reaching. All new Microsoft Word documents created on an infected computer will contain the virus, too. Our own computer lab has posted a warning stating if a you receive a mail docoument the says, "Here is that document you asked for ... don't show it to anyone else" with a winking smiley face formed by the punctuation marks ;-) that you don't open it and to delete it right away. A copy cat virus named, "Papa,'' appeared Monday afternoon. It attaches a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet document which, when opened, sends out 60 e-mails, however Papa has bugs that sometimes prevent it from working.
The number of computers infected by this virus is amazing. Out of about 150 Fortune 1000 companies and other major organizations that called Network Associates Inc. about Melissa, 80% were infected, said Sal Viveros, the company's group marketing manager for total virus defense. Another customer reported that 60,000 desktops were already affected, and another company said 500,000 e-mail messages were floating around in its system.
Although it is hard to find the source of the the e-mail. A man named Richard Smith, president of Phar Lap Software, a firm that makes operating systems and software tools, thinks he knows who made the e-mail virus. He had found clues linking the virus to a still-unidentified writer who uses the computer handle ''VicodinES''. He thinks the virus writer distributed it using an account stolen from America Online 15 months ago.