Forget Michelangelo: Jerusalem and the Maltese Amoeba are coming

March 12, 1992|By Leslie Cauley | Leslie Cauley,Staff Writer

Computer users who managed to make it through Friday -- the strike date for the "Michelangelo" computer virus -- with their files intact shouldn't breathe too easy. Another virus is set to hit tomorrow, Friday the 13th.

Dubbed "Jerusalem" for the city in which it is thought to have originated, tomorrow's virus is decidedly less destructive than its March 6 kin, but a problem nonetheless. The Jerusalem virus, which has been around for about three years, shows up every Friday the 13th.

Like Michelangelo, the Jerusalem virus affects only International Business Machines Corp. equipment and clones.

Unlike Michelangelo, however, the Jerusalem virus obliterates files over a period of time, not immediately.

Left untreated, files hit by the Friday the 13th computer bug won't execute properly, requiring time-consuming reconstruction.

"It's not nearly as bad as Michelangelo, but it's still pretty nasty," said Wayne Carpenter, president of Jetics Inc. of Vienna, Va., an authorized agent for McAfee software, a popular anti-virus program.

One tip-off that a machine has been infected with the Friday the 13th bug, Mr. Carpenter said, is that its memory is about 2,000 bytes fuller than normal.

Another tip-off is that a machine won't turn on properly, Mr. Carpenter said.

Infected machines can be cleaned with one of a number of anti-viral computer programs. Most programs seek out and destroy any virus they find.

At last count, according to Mc- Afee, there were more than 1,000 computer viruses in existence.

Several viruses are expected to hit in rapid succession after tomorrow.

The "Maltese Amoeba" virus, which sends computer users a poem before blowing up files, will arrive Sunday. More than half a dozen different viruses -- with names such as Casper and Christmas Tree -- are expected to activate April 1, April Fools' Day, which traditionally has been a big day for computer pranks.

Although the electronic characteristics of the viruses differ slightly, Mr. Carpenter said, they share some characteristics: They attack only the files of IBM machines and clones, and they can be neutralized by using anti-viral software programs.

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