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New 'Stages' Computer Virus Attaches Grief to E-Mail UsersAired June 20, 2000 - 2:12 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Here we go again: Be wary today of the e-mail message that promises laughs. It could end up causing you grief.
CNN technology correspondent Rick Lockridge joins us now with details of a new computer virus.
What's it all about, Rick?
RICK LOCKRIDGE, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know what the antivirus people say: Build a better mousetrap and somebody will go out there and build a better mouse. And that looks like what happened this time, Lou. This one is -- it comes to you in much the same form as we've come to expect in these e-mail attachment viruses.
If you look in your inbox and you see the little paper clip signifying an attachment, and you were to open that up, what you'd see then is a "stages of life" message, and you'd see a little text file attachment, "life_stages.txt" But what you don't see is the invisible file suffix. That would be ".shs." And Microsoft designed Windows so that you could have invisible files called Scrap Shell files which could contain any kind of code, including malicious code.
Because that's invisible, you don't know it's there. You think it's just a text file. And everything we've heard about text files is that they have not been able, to this point, to cause the kind of problems that other viruses that are executable programs cause. So a lot of people, including me, thought it was safe to double-click on those, open them up. And when you do that, it starts to replicate. It goes into your address book, like some of the others, and it sends copies of itself to everybody in your address book.
Now, this one is not as damaging as some. Those would spread around and then start deleting people's files. This doesn't do that, it just makes a big mess by making copies of itself and getting into the e-mail servers to the point where it clogs them up. One company said it had 5,000 individual users affected by this virus, and a lot of people here at CNN were also affected by it.
Now, here are the rules to follow when you're dealing with attachments. And we've talked about them before, but a good time to go over them again, Lou. First of all, the strict rule is delete most attachments that you get from people you don't know right off the bat. If you think it's from somebody you trust, call them. Ask them, did you send me this? Is it safe to open it? If so, go ahead and open it then.
Get the latest antivirus software. There are a number of sites on the Web. Symantec.com is just one among many. There's at least half a dozen good ones. It's usually free. And you should do it about every week or so. I know it's a big pain, but it looks like, in this day and age, it's something that you've got to do.
And, finally, if you use Outlook, as many of us do, you can get a patch for it on Microsoft's Web site. You can go to Microsoft.com and follow the links to the attachment for this patch. And, Lou, what that will really do is disable your ability to get attachments. That's a steep price to pay if you're in the kind of business where you deal with a lot of Excel files and so forth, but it looks like it's coming to that, where we're getting to the day and age where you really can't trust anybody -- Lou.
WATERS: Can't trust those attachments. Rick Lockridge, thanks.
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