Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

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.

Jane Hughes reports from New York: "He is due to appear in court on Monday"
He developed the virus in his apartment in Aberdeen, New Jersey, according to the state's attorney general's office.

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.

AOL help

[ image: David Smith: Released on bail]
David Smith: Released on bail
Melissa disrupted the operations of thousands of companies and government agencies.

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.

E-mail attachment

Melissa infects computers when users receive a particular e-mail and open a Microsoft Word document attached to it.

[ image: The virus makes Oulook send 50 e-mails]
The virus makes Oulook send 50 e-mails
The e-mail is headed: "Important Message From" and contains the sentence: "Here is that document you asked for...don't show anyone else ;-)."

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.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Sci/Tech Contents

Relevant Stories

31 Mar 99 | Sci/Tech
Nato under 'cyber attack'

29 Mar 99 | Sci/Tech
Melissa virus goes global

31 Jul 98 | Sci/Tech
Invasion of the killer e-mail viruses

Internet Links


America Online

McAfee virus profile

The Simpsons play Scrabble

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

World's smallest transistor

Scientists join forces to study Arctic ozone

Mathematicians crack big puzzle

From Business
The growing threat of internet fraud

Who watches the pilots?

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer