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Company Tracks Down Computer Virus

January 28, 1992

BOSTON (AP) _ Personal computer maker Leading Edge Products Inc. said Tuesday it was helping customers track down a virus designed to kill their files March 6.

While the virus was believed to have infected up to 500 computers shipped by Leading Edge, experts say such viruses have become common and can easily wreak havoc for corporations.

Leading Edge, based in Westboro, has been sending out special software programs designed to chase down the virus and eliminate it.

Company officials said the virus originated in equipment provided by a subcontractor for its personal computers assembled at a plant in Compton, Calif.

″We don’t believe it was sabotage,″ company spokeswoman Susan Zephir said. ″We think it was something that was inadvertently on a disk that came into our facility.″ She declined to specify the source.

While software programs can cure a virus once it is detected, preventing the virus from spreading is a more difficult task, experts say. It can easily move from computer to computer through the transfer of files or disks.

″Time is the enemy here,″ said John McAfee, president of McAfee Associates, a virus consulting firm in Santa Clara, Calif. Within a matter of weeks, the virus can multiply to hundreds of computers, he said.

One of the most common viruses is the ″Stoned″ virus, which tells users that their computers are stoned and calls for the legalization of marijuana.

The virus infecting the Leading Edge computers is more malicious, designed to erase a computer’s hard disk on Michelangelo’s birthday. But because of bugs in the virus, it will also attack files randomly on other days.

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.

Leading Edge isn’t the only computer products company to face a virus lately. In December, computer networking product maker Novell Inc. sent letters to approximately 3,800 customers warning them that the company had shipped disks infected with the Stoned virus.

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

Leading Edge said its infected computers were shipped between Dec. 10 and Dec. 27. The problem was detected by a Leading Edge retailer. Leading Edge ships more than 15,000 personal computers a month.

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