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Company Tracks Down Michelangelo Computer Virus

January 28, 1992

BOSTON (AP) _ A personal computer maker said Tuesday hundreds of its computers contain a virus designed to kill users’ files on Michelangelo’s birthday, March 6.

Leading Edge Products Inc. said it was mailing software to eliminate the virus, which also will attack files randomly on other days, to people who bought the infected units.

Company spokeswoman Susan Zephir said the virus infected up to 500 computers made at its plant in Compton, Calif., and shipped between Dec. 10 and Dec. 27. Leading Edge, based in Westboro, ships more than 15,000 personal computers a month.

Zephir said the virus originated in equipment provided to the Compton plant by a subcontractor.

″We don’t believe it was sabotage,″ Zephir said. ″We think it was something that was inadvertently on a disk that came into our facility.″

″We believe we know exactly where it came from,″ she added, but declined to specify the source.

A retailer detected the problem. Company technicians were sent to warehouses to fix computers that hadn’t been sold.

Viruses are programs that lurk unseen in computers and can move easily from computer to computer through the transfer of files or disks. Some merely print innocuous messages, but others, like the virus discovered by Leading Edge, are malicious.

While software programs can cure a virus once it is detected, preventing the virus from spreading is a more difficult task, experts say.

John McAfee, president of McAfee Associates, a virus consulting firm in Santa Clara, Calif., said a virus like the Michelangelo one could spread to hundreds of computers within weeks.

″Time is the enemy here,″ McAfee said.

McAfee said the Michelangelo virus apparently came from Eastern Europe about a year ago, but where it began is unknown.

″It would be like trying to track the common cold down to its original source,″ he said.

In December, Novell Inc. warned approximately 3,800 customers that the company had shipped disks infected with a virus that displays a message advocating legalized marijuana.

A version of that virus also made its way late last year to a computer software game made by Konami Inc.

″There’s been kind of a rash of these things,″ said Tori Case, a product manager for Central Point Software Inc. in Beaverton, Ore., which makes anti- virus software.

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