Users are being warned this morning to beware an email with Word attachment that contains a new Word 97 macro virus called Melissa.
The virus, which has spread dramatically via emails since Friday, is specifically designed to be distributed far and wide. Its initial distribution was in a Usenet news posting to an alt.sex newsgroup.
US reports suggested many corporate email systems were dramaticaly slowed on Friday as the virus spread.
The virus propagates in the form of an email containing an infected Word document as an attachment and has most frequently been reported to contain the following subject header: "Important message from ?" whoever is sending the message.
The body of the message contains the following text.
"Here is that document you asked for? don't show anyone else."
The next section contains references to pornographic websites: When a user opens an infected .doc file with Microsoft Word 97 or Word 2000, the macro virus is immediately executed, if macros are enabled.
It then extracts the first 50 addresses from Outlook's Global Address Book and sends a message to each one - this could include groups, creating the potential for exponential expansion of the email.
If the day and the minute are the same, for example the time is 10.05 on 5 March, then the virus will insert the following text into the document: "Twenty two points, plus triple word score, plus fifty points for using all my letters. Game's over I'm outta here."
Users are advised to delete any such emails without opening. A number of anti-virus software companies have already posted patches for the virus on their websites.
VNU Newswire will have a full report this afternoon.
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