Melissa virus stows away aboard Navy ship
- By Bob Brewin
- Mar 29, 1999
ABOARD THE USS BLUE RIDGE—The wildly proliferating computer virus "Melissa," which has infected e-mail servers across government and the private sector, has made its way to e-mail accounts on this command ship of the U.S. 7th Fleet, operating 20 miles off the coast of Guam in the western Pacific Ocean.
The Melissa macrovirus, which began hitting systems last week, comes in the form of an e-mail attachment. While the virus does no harm to an organization's data or software, it can slow down and eventually crash the e-mail server. The virus propagates itself by using a PC user's e-mail address book to forward itself to other users.
But, thanks to a timely alert from the Navy's Fleet Information Warfare Center (FIWC), the Blue Ridge managed to stop Melissa before its spread, according to Cmdr. Michael Felmly, assistant chief of staff for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence for the 7th Fleet.
"We got a heads up on what to do and what not do to do" last weekend from FIWC via the Navy's Pacific Region Network Operations center in Hawaii, Felmly said. The center supports the Blue Ridge and the eight 7th Fleet ships participating in the semiannual Tandem Thrust exercise.
The information technology staff identified three e-mails that had the virus and isolated them before they spread throughout the ship's unclassified local-area network, which hosts 1,600 e-mail accounts, said Dennis Kaida, a network and systems engineer from the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command and who is temporarily assigned to the Blue Ridge for Tandem Thrust.
Kaida said that by the time the 7th Fleet network staff had isolated the e-mails containing the virus, the network crew had gone to the Symantec Corp. home page and downloaded Norton AntiVirus software that works against the Melissa virus.
Vice Adm. Walter Doran, commander of the 7th Fleet, said that the ability of the Melissa virus to make its way to this ship—the showcase of the networked Navy with a high-speed fiber-optic backbone and multiple satellite links to the outside world—highlighted the downside of such connectivity.
In the not-so-distant past, Doran said, "when you went to sea, you took off the lines" and lost most connections to the world "except for a squawky radio." But, thanks to the high speed network and satellite connections, Doran said, "we are very much connected even at sea."In fact, shortly after concluding the Melissa battle, the ship's staff had to gear up to fight off the similar "Papa" virus, which attacks Microsoft Corp. Excel spreadsheets.