Yet another MS Bug? Or two?
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 1 Apr 99 10:19:57 -0800
Subject: Yet another MS Bug? Or two?
Forwarded-by: Dan Hunt <email@example.com>
[Here's a pretty intellegent article on the Melissa Microsoft Bug.
Remember this is not a virus; it's a bug tied to a specific product
or, in this case, a specific two products. -Dan]
Melissa virus panic attack
You couldn't open a newspaper over the last couple days without reading a
report about the spread of a dangerous new computer virus, "Melissa," which,
lengthy stories in the New York Times and elsewhere declared, "is carried
by e-mail." Panic reigned -- particularly among novice computer users for
whom the phrase "computer virus" conjures terrifying images of their
processors running a fever and their hard drives breaking out in pox.
So once again, it's time to remind people: You can't "catch" a computer
virus by opening an e-mail message. The Melissa virus is not contained in
the plain-text body of an e-mail but rather in an attached Microsoft Word
document. You should always be extremely careful about opening files that
arrive as e-mail attachments, particularly if you're not sure who sent them.
In Melissa's recipe for mischief, when you open the Word file attachment
(usually named "list.doc") -- which contains a list of porn sites -- the
file uses Word macros to grab the names of dozens of your friends from your
Microsoft Outlook e-mail program's address book and send the same
virus-infected file to them, with a sneaky subject line that reads
"Important Message from [your name]." (If you don't use Outlook that won't
happen, but the virus will still change some settings in your Word program.)
For individual users this is more nuisance than terror -- but it does pose
a danger to corporate mail servers and Internet service providers, as the
volume of virus-generated messages grows geometrically and clogs the pipes.
The culprit here is not e-mail itself, which remains a pretty benign form
computer system. The real problem lies with Microsoft Word, Microsoft
Outlook and Microsoft's whole design philosophy. Microsoft wants to automate
tasks and build suites of products that work together, but it hasn't done
a very good job of building security and safeguards along the way. In the
past Microsoft has dismissed the issue of macro viruses by labeling them
"prank macros"; maybe Melissa will finally send Microsoft an "important
message" to take the problem seriously.
-- Scott Rosenberg
SALON | March 30, 1999
© 1999 Peter Langston