Monday, April 5, 1999 Published at 00:50 GMT 01:50 UK
Melissa suspect faces court
One of Melissa's effects is opening a Bart Simpson quote
A man who allegedly created the computer bug Melissa is awaiting a court appearance.
David L Smith, 30, a network programmer, will appear in a New Jersey court charged with the interruption of public communications and theft of computer services.
In all, the charges carry a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and a $480,000 fine.
Mr Smith's alleged weapon, Melissa, quickly spread through the Internet and corrupted e-mail systems in companies around the world.
Melissa, one of whose effects is to display a message from Bart Simpson of The Simpsons cartoon, was apparently named after a topless dancer from Florida.
The virus spread rapidly around the world like a chain letter, causing affected computers to fire off dozens of infected messages, and crashing e-mail systems.
Several major US companies were forced to shut down mail servers, according to the New York Times.
Mr Smith was arrested after after an investigation involving America Online technicians, and a computer task force composed of federal and state agents.
Melissa infects computers when users receive a particular e-mail and open a Microsoft Word document attached to it.
If a user opens the attachment, usually called list.doc, a programme sends the e-mail to the first 50 addresses in the Global Address Book of anyone running Microsoft's Outlook personal organiser.
In large companies, massive volumes of e-mail have been generated, with serious implications for Web servers.
As the macro virus code is easily changed, variants have emerged, notably the Papa virus, which affects Excel spreadsheets.
The UK company WH Smith is offering a free solution to the Melissa virus. It can be downloaded at the company's Website.
Kwyjibo Simpsons link
The virus contains comments that identify the author only as "Kwyjibo".
The word Kwyjibo was made up by Bart from The Simpsons cartoon show, who coined it as a term of abuse for his father Homer in a Scrabble-playing episode.
And if the e-mail infects an individual computer, the following Bart Simpson quote from the episode appears:
"Twenty-two points, plus triple-word-score, plus 50 points for using all my letters. Game's over. I'm outta here."
But the message only appears if the computer is launched when the day equals the minute value...such as 29 minutes past on the 29th.