Washington county meets 'Melissa'

The Snohomish County, Wash., government's e-mail system was shut down last week after becoming infested with the "Melissa" virus, the same bug that caused more than $80 million in damage nationwide last year.

The virus hit the county computers around noon Thursday, forcing the department of information services to shut down the government's e-mail server, said John Hartwig, office automation manager at the department.

"We're cleaning the virus off and getting rid of it right now," Hartwig said Friday. "It only affected the mail system itself — a single server — but it is our main communication tool," he said, adding that they have not yet calculated the financial loss.

Melissa is hidden in an "important message" e-mail. When the file is opened, the virus enters the recipient's computer address book and sends the same message to the first 50 e-mail addresses.

Hartwig said the virus came from an external e-mail message and that the system was scheduled to be running by Friday afternoon.

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