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At approximately 2:00 PM GMT-5 on Friday March 26 1999 we began receiving reports of a Microsoft Word 97 and Word 2000 macro virus which is propagating via email attachments. The number and variety of reports we have received indicate that this is a widespread attack affecting a variety of sites. Our analysis of this macro virus indicates that human action (in the form of a user opening an infected Word document) is required for this virus to propagate. It is possible that under some mailer configurations, a user might automatically open an infected document received in the form of an e-mail attachment.
Eric Allman, a co-founder of Sendmail, said he was concerned that the problem would worsen on Monday morning when employees find these messages in their E-mail in-boxes. "This will get into a lot of mail boxes and lay dormant," he said. When employees come in at 8 A.M. and read these messages, it will cause an explosive growth of the virus."
Whoever the virus writer is, the work took its toll today. The Computer Emergency Response Team, a Pentagon-financed security service at Carnegie Mellon University, reported calls from 250 organizations indicating the virus had affected at least 100,000 workplace computers. "We believe the number is probably higher than that," said Jeff Carpenter, a team leader for the group, but because of precautions taken by companies over the weekend, "we do think the problem has not been as bad today as we feared it might be."
Although Mr. Smith usually spends his time designing software tools and operating systems, over the weekend he used programmers' tools to peer inside the document carrying the virus known as Melissa, which has wildly spread through the Internet in recent days. Mr. Smith found indications that the virus is a work of a programmer -- or possibly a small group -- who wrote and distributed a similar program two years ago. Moreover, by searching the World Wide Web, he has found clues to the identity of the programmers and even more striking evidence that could lead the authorities to the computer on which the program was written.