New Scotland Yard today dismissed as hype the overnight virus attack that crippled computers worldwide, while in the US the FBI has launched a criminal investigation into the outbreak.
The new virus, Explore.Zip Worm works in a similar way to the recent Melissa virus - it arrives looking like an email from someone you know, and then, once the attachment is opened, it forwards itself to people in your address book.
Worse however, Explore.Zip then searches through system drives and destroys a series of files, resulting in irrecoverable data and/or systems.
However, despite reports overnight that thousands of companies, including Microsoft, had been hit by Explore.Zip, a spokesman for New Scotland Yard's computer crime division said reports of the attacks had been "over hyped."
"We are looking into it as we have done with every other virus attack, but there is a certain amount of hype created around these attacks. Look at the hype over the Melissa virus and the same with Chernobyl and how quickly it died. It certainly wasn't the end of computing as we know it," he said.
"We would advise companies to make sure they have the latest anti virus software and to call us if they suffer an attack."
Aled Miles, regional director for UK and Ireland for anti-virus vendor Symantec said New Scotland Yard's attitude was "irresponsible."
He commented: "I recognise that people expect us anti-virus companies to hype up these attacks, but we're not in the business of scaring people."
Miles added: "If the computer crime unit had sat in my office yesterday and talked to the companies that had been affected, then they would have a completely different view."
He went on to say that Explore.Zip was in fact a more serious threat to companies than Melissa.
"It is able to proliferate across a greater number of systems, it sends more emails and what it does to you is much worse - it deletes data. If that's not something to worry about, then I don't know what is," Miles added.
Miles said Symantec had received 27 calls by six o'clock last night, and had been called out to a company that had had to shut down its network. Today, he said the company had received so many calls it had stopped counting.
According to reports, Microsoft had to suspend all email traffic among 1,000 UK staff in order to prevent the virus spreading. Merrill Lynch and BskyB are also reported to have been hit.
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