Overview[edit | edit source]

The Melissa virus is a mass-mailing macro virus. It first appeared on the Internet in March of 1999. It spread rapidly throughout computer systems in the United States and Europe. It is estimated that the virus caused $80 million in damages to computers worldwide. In the United States alone, the virus made its way through 1.2 million computers in one-fifth of the country's largest businesses.

The virus launched when a user opened an infected Microsoft Word 8 or Word 9 document contained in either Office 97 or Office 2000. The virus, programmed as a macro in the Word document, prompted the Outlook e-mail program to send the infected document to the first 50 addresses in the victim's Outlook address book. When a recipient opened the attachment in the e-mail, which appeared to be from a friend, co-worker, boss or family member, the virus spread to the first 50 e-mail addresses in that person's address book, and thus continued to propagate. Six months after the first appearance of Melissa, variant strains continued to make their way into users' inboxes despite warnings and widespread publicity about opening attachments while the macro function is enabled.[1]

David Smith pleaded guilty on December 9, 1999, to state and federal charges associated with his creation of the Melissa virus.

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