advertising information

CNN.com
 MAIN PAGE
 WORLD
 ASIANOW
 U.S.
 LOCAL
 POLITICS
 WEATHER
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 TECHNOLOGY
   computing
   personal technology
   space
 NATURE
 ENTERTAINMENT
 BOOKS
 TRAVEL
 FOOD
 HEALTH
 STYLE
 IN-DEPTH

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

  CNN WEB SITES:
CNN Websites
 TIME INC. SITES:
 MORE SERVICES:
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines
 pointcast
 pagenet

 DISCUSSION:
 message boards
 chat
 feedback

 SITE GUIDES:
 help
 contents
 search

 FASTER ACCESS:
 europe
 japan

 WEB SERVICES:
COMPUTING

Copycat virus follows quickly on Melissa's heels

by Michael Lattig and Dan Briody

From...
InfoWorld

March 29, 1999
Web posted at: 3:35 p.m. EST (2035 GMT)

email virus

 ALSO
   Massive e-mail virus outbreak spreads like wildfire

   How to protect yourself against Melissa

   For more computing stories

 IN-DEPTH SPECIAL
   Insurgency on the Internet

  

(IDG) -- Network Associates has discovered an e-mail virus similar to the Melissa virus that company officials said they believe is even more dangerous than its predecessor.

Dubbed Papa, the new virus is an Excel virus that sends itself in the same manner as Melissa, but sends itself to the first 60 people in a user's address book compared to 50 with Melissa. In addition, Papa sends an e-mail out every time the virus is activated. Melissa only sends the message the first time it is opened.

This time the subject line claims the message is from "all.net and Fred Cohen." The body of the e-mail, which contains an attached document titled "path.xls," then instructs the user not to disable the macros, which is how the virus is activated.

According to Sal Viveros, group marketing manager for total virus defense at Network Associates, the most disruptive aspect of Papa is the fact that it "pings" an as-yet-undetermined external site to make sure there is an available Internet connection. The practice of pinging is not unusual, but Papa pings so many times that it brings the network down.
MORE COMPUTING INTELLIGENCE
 IDG.net home page
 InfoWorld home page
 InfoWorld forums home page
 InfoWorld Internet commerce section
 Get Media Grok and The Industry Standard Intelligencer delivered for free
 Reviews & in-depth info at IDG.net
 IDG.net's personal news page
  Questions about computers? Let IDG.net's editors help you
 Subscribe to IDG.net's free daily newsletter for IT leaders
 Subscribe to Tipworld's antivirus alert
  Search IDG.net in 12 languages
 News Radio
  Fusion audio primers
  Computerworld Minute
   

The biggest concern from a corporate security standpoint is that any document infected with the virus and then e-mailed to another party is distributed in the same way the Melissa virus is, leaving companies vulnerable to having confidential documents distributed unknowingly.

Viveros believes Papa was written by a different person than the author of Melissa, but that it uses the original virus as a road map. This practice of using similar mechanisms to deliver more destructive payloads is not unusual, noted Viveros, which could mean a string of such similar viruses could be on the way. Variants, however, should be less disruptive because virus-detection vendors know what they are looking for. Network Associates expects to post software for detection and cleaning of the Papa virus by Monday afternoon.

The Melissa virus first sprang up in countless e-mail inboxes around the world on Friday, replicating itself to end-user address books and sending an exhaustive list of pornographic Web sites to everyone therein.

According to Viveros, Melissa is the widest spreading virus he has ever seen, hitting approximately 80 percent of Network Associates' major customers, which amounts to almost 100 companies. A significant number of those were forced to take their e-mail systems down.

The Melissa virus hampered -- and in some cases entirely shut down -- e-mail systems for companies the world over. Microsoft, for example, put a halt to all outgoing e-mails throughout the company on Friday to guard against spreading the virus.

At risk are Microsoft Exchange Servers running Microsoft Outlook. With an ever-changing subject heading of "Important Message From [end-user name]," the attachment to the e-mail is a document entitled "list.doc" with a body of text stating, "Here is that document you asked for ... don't show anyone else ;-)."

Upon opening the attachment, Microsoft Word 97 will ask if you want to disable the macros, to which you should reply yes, or the e-mail will automatically be sent to the first fifty names on each company mailing list.

"If you don't disable the macros, the virus resends itself to everyone in [your] address list," said John Berard, a spokesman for Fleishman Hillard, which was infected by the virus and inadvertently spread it around.

In addition, the virus automatically changes the security settings of an infected system to the lowest possible setting, a slick move that has IT managers wondering if they will have to manually reset every infected PC in their enterprise.

Dan Schrader, director of product marketing at anti-virus software maker Trend Micro, said the virus is easy to detect and not destructive in nature. But it can cause serious bandwidth constraints and contains several quirky characteristics.

One of those is a hidden message from the popular TV series "The Simpsons" that is inserted into any open documents whenever the date and the time - 2:29 on the 29th for instance - match.

A fix for the Melissa virus is now available from most major anti-virus software vendors.

Michael Lattig (michael_lattig@infoworld.com) is an InfoWorld reporter. Dan Briody (dan_briody@infoworld.com)is InfoWorld's Client/Server editor.


RELATED STORIES:
How to protect yourself against Melissa
March 29, 1999
Massive e-mail virus outbreak spreads like wildfire
March 29, 1999
You've got (unwanted) mail
March 28, 1999
The trials of Kevin Mitnick
March 1999

RELATED IDG.net STORIES:
How to protect yourself against Melissa
(PC World)
Massive e-mail virus outbreak spreads like wildfire
(InfoWorld)
'Melissa' virus spreading through corporate networks
(Computerworld)
Just how destructive will 'Melissa' virus be?
(Industry Standard)
The 10 Commandments of E-mail
(PC World)
Virucide! All about virus killers
(PC World)
Top 10 e-mail tools
(PC World)

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


RELATED SITES:
Command Antivirus - Melissa information
McAfee/Network Associates - Melissa information
Norton AntiVirus Research Center - Melissa information
Trend Micro - Melissa information
Trend HouseCall

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.

 LATEST HEADLINES:
SEARCH CNN.com
Enter keyword(s)   go    help

Back to the top   © 2001 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.