Air Force News

Viruses infecting DOD computers

Released: 30 Mar 1999

by Staff Sgt. Michael Dorsey
Air Force Print News

WASHINGTON -- Hot on the heels of one irritating computer virus has come one more hostile in nature. In both cases, the Department of Defense and America's private sector have had to react quickly to prevent damage to worldwide computer networks.

"Melissa" struck first, hitting computer systems hard March 26. It appeared in e-mail messages titled, "Important Message From ..." DOD computer officials advise users not to pass the e-mail along or open the e-mail's attachment. Opening the attachment will automatically forward a copy to of the email and virus to the first 50 contacts in your personal address book and contaminate your system.

If spread, the virus causes serious damage to network servers because of the amount of e-mail each processes. To the user, however, the effect is not so severe.

"Papa," on the other hand, has more potential for harm. This Excel virus appeared March 29 acting much like Melissa, but sending itself to the first 60 people in a user's address book. In addition, Papa sends an e-mail out every time the virus is activated and can potentially bring entire networks down.

Whether the viruses are called Melissa, Papa or other expected copycat strains, communications experts won't link the invaders to Operation Allied Force in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

"I wouldn't categorize this as information warfare, but this e-mail spamming is the most widely distributed spread of a virus I've seen." said Col. Roger Robichaux, chief of the Networks Division for the Air Force Communications and Information Center.

Chuck Gibson, Pentagon customer help desk manager, said, "We're working with Microsoft and wiping stuff off from servers. We're receiving information from customers, and we're getting the problems under control."

All viruses and computer hacking against the Air Force are tracked by the Air Force Computer Emergency Response Team at Kelly Air Force Base, Texas. Throughout the service, systems administrators are contacting operators to install updated virus scanners.

To prevent spreading the virus, Gibson said users should practice safe computing, such as not opening attachments from strangers and running antivirus software regularly.

For more information, contact your system administrator.


* Department of Defense
* Kelly Air Force Base, Texas