NEW YORK (AP) — Computer systems managers were bracing for new digital infections today when workers log on and download the latest e-mail virus to bombard the Internet.
The Worm.Explore.Zip virus, which is transmitted via e-mail and ruins files on infected computers, has struck tens of thousands of machines, but so far hasn't spread as widely as the Melissa virus that hit in late March.
But fears remained Sunday that the outbreak may have fallen dormant over the weekend with most people not working, and could start spreading again when employees return today and switch on their computers.
Another concern, anti-virus experts said, has been scattered reports of new symptoms being detected among infected machines, a sign the bug may be more complex than first thought, said Mark Zajicek, a member of the Computer Emergency Response Team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation was trying to track down the author of the virus, but the agency declined to provide any updates on the probe over the weekend. It took only days earlier this spring for authorities to trace the digital footprints of Melissa and the Chernobyl virus that struck in late April.
The virus, first detected June 6 in Israel, did most of its damage on Thursday and Friday, infecting computer systems at several big corporations including AT&T, Boeing, General Electric and even Microsoft.
Nervous calls to computer support lines dropped off sharply this weekend after two frenzied days of combat against the bug, which uses guile like Melissa to spread and then inflicts a Chernobyl-like attack on individual machines.
Worm.Explore.Zip targets computers using Microsoft Windows operating systems. The virus arrives in a person's e-mail box as a timely reply from an acquaintance, inviting the recipient to open an attached file that will unleash a two-pronged attack: It spreads by sending a copy of itself to the address of any arriving e-mail and destroys files stored on a person's machine, including those created by the popular programs Microsoft Word and Excel.