New version of computer virus strikes dozens of companies


Wednesday, December 1st 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


SUNNYVALE, Calif. (AP) -- Banc of America and Disney's Go.com are among dozens of companies struck by a new version of a computer virus that spread over the summer via e-mail and destroyed thousands of computer files.

Anti-virus software makers who reported the outbreak of the "MiniZip" virus warned computer users on Wednesday against
opening any file attached to suspicious e-mail.

But experts affiliated with the government declined to issue any alerts, saying they hadn't received any direct reports of the virus.

In fact, fears of the outbreak may have been spreading faster on Wednesday than the virus: Network Associates, a leading maker of
anti-virus software, reported that visits to its Web site increased more than tenfold compared with Tuesday.

MiniZip is a compressed version of Worm.ExploreZip, the virus that struck hundreds of thousands of computers at major companies in June.

The new version, first reported last week, was detected on Tuesday at Go.com, worming its way through computer hard drives at the headquarters of the online network and search engine.

"A handful of computers were affected before we caught it," said company spokeswoman Shelly Greenhalgh. "It could have been
much worse."

The MiniZip also was discovered on Tuesday at Banc of America, but did no permanent damage because files are copied on back-up
systems, said bank spokeswoman Jennifer Smith.

As with Worm.ExploreZip, the MiniZip is only known to attack computers using Microsoft operating systems Windows 95, Windows 98,
and Windows NT. Rival operating systems such as Macintosh and Unix apparently are not vulnerable.

On an infected computer, the MiniZip reads the addresses of new and unread e-mail and automatically sends itself as a response,
changing the subject line from, for example, "Work Meeting" to "Re: Work Meeting."

The body of the message reads: "Hi (recipient's name)! I received your e-mail and I shall send you an e-mail ASAP. Till then, take a look at the attached zipped docs. bye."

Don't click on that attachment, experts said. Opening it leads to the destruction of various files on a computer, which are then replaced with empty files.

"I have to say that this is a particularly insidious virus," said Carey Nachenberg, chief researcher at Symantec Corp.'s anti-virus center in Cupertino.

Computer users can protect uninfected machines by downloading free fixes on the Internet from various anti-virus software
companies.

Sal Viveros of Network Associates, a Santa Clara-based company that also writes anti-virus software, said new reports of the virus
were slowing by Wednesday afternoon, but that it could take weeks before it is completely eradicated.