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Melissa Virus

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Threat: Melissa Virus
Discovered: March 26, 1999
Also known as: MSWord.Melissa
Type: Macro virus

Melissa is a virus that exploits the macro feature within the Microsoft Office suite in order to infect documents and mass mail copies of itself to a victims address book. Unlike viruses that are packaged as stand-alone executable files, Melissa uses a feature that allows Office documents to activate other Microsoft applications and use their abilities. Hidden within a Word document, the virus gains access to Outlook and mass emails a message along with an infected copy of itself.

If an infected Word document is downloaded and opened, the macro in the document will be executed. The Melissa macro sends email messages to the first 50 entries from Outlook’s alias list or address book with the subject, “Important Message From [Random Name],” and message body, “Here is that document you asked for … don’t show anyone else ;-).” The macro also infects any document that is currently being edited, and attaches these files to the mass-mailed messages. As a result of this method of distribution, the victim’s private documents are spread across the web.

The Melissa macro-virus only functions on the Windows operating system, infects Word 97 or Word 2000 documents and templates, and sends messages from an Outlook 97 or Outlook 98 email client. Melissa does not have the ability to harm systems using any other versions of Word or Outlook, and isn’t compatible with the Macintosh operating system. Despite this limited range of functionality, Melissa infected thousands of computers in a short amount of time, and caused many corporations to shut down their email systems while infection was contained.

Protection From Melissa Virus

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