A gremlin trying to spoil Christmas has released a Melissa-like virus capable of reformatting the hard drive of a computer.
The W97M.Prilissa.A. virus uses Microsoft's Outlook to send infected documents via e-mail, much like the well-known Melissa virus, and in addition uses the system date to reformat users' C drives on December 25, according to antivirus software experts.
The virus has the potential to wipe out everything on a computer's hard disk drive, but most antivirus technology can detect and clean up the virus, Susan Orbuch, a spokeswoman for antivirus software vendor Trend Micro said.
`It's Melissa packing a punch,' she said. `But the good news is we are prepared for it.' Trend Micro and other antivirus software companies now market rules-based or heuristic scanning devices that detect such behaviour, she added.
The text of the virus message reads: `This document is very Important and you've GOT to read this!!!' When the document is opened, the virus disables virus protection security settings, conversion confirmation and users' recently opened file list, Orbuch said.
Symantec Australia's general manager, John Donovan, said Australia is also Prilissa-free at the moment and should remain so due to the increasingly aware home market, which the Christmas day execution date implies is the target.
`People need to be aware that as we get towards the end of the year, the decade, the century and the millennium, a lot of weirdos will use the time as a trigger date. People should also be careful not to confuse a virus with the millennium bug,' said Donovan.