Marines say virus incident not an attack

The computer virus that found its way onto the network at Marine Corpsheadquarters in the Pentagon last week is not theresult of a deliberate or sustained cyberattack, officials confirmedFriday.

Senior officials involved in intelligence and command and control at Marine Corps headquarters characterized the incident as localized and minor.

Officials identified the virus as the ExploreZip worm virus. Worm viruses,such as ExploreZip, replicate themselves quicklythroughout infected systems and networks and then delete files critical tothe operation of various MicrosoftWindows-based applications.

"We have a better-than-average system for [computer network defense] using detection systems, firewalls and virus scans," said one senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But if you get the right combination of operator or system administrator errors lined up with the right unsafe practice by a user, something like this can get on the network," the official said. "It wasn't that big of a deal, and we're not sure why it rated even a news clip."

Capt. Pete Mitchell, a Marine Corps spokesman, said an unknown type of worm virus attached to an e-mail infected the shared hard drives on three unclassified servers, hitting Microsoft Corp.-based applications particularly hard. "While it was more of an inconvenience than anything else, it was a reminder of the hazards [associated] with opening e-mails with attachments from unknown sources," Mitchell said.

The incident raised eyebrows, however, coming as new variants of the "Melissa" virus recently have been identified throughout the country. Melissa, which appeared in March on networks throughout government and private industry, forced the Marine Corps to shut down its base-to-base e-mail system for several days until system administrators could ensure the virus had been eliminated [FCW, March 30].

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