Computer Virus Warning Issued

(10-30-96)-Information Processing Support has issued a warning to the Boston College community about a potentially destructive computer virus which may reappear on campus on Nov. 1.

The so-called "MDMA virus" can cause serious damage to Macintosh or personal computers which use the Microsoft Word 6.0 application or its more recent versions, said IPS Personal Computing Systems Manager Jeanne Spellman. On the first day of each month, she explained, the virus deletes system files or the entire hard drive of the infected computer, making it impossible to start.

Spellman said the virus damaged several administrative computers on Oct. 1, and has been reported or observed frequently since then by a number of users on campus.

"This is the first serious virus threat BC has ever faced," Spellman said. "People who generally [are careful about computing] have never had to worry until now. Likewise, users who never download anything from the Internet and, therefore, consider themselves safe from viruses may also be at risk."

The MDMA virus can be passed along in regular documents like office memos and class assignments that are shared electronically with other users, Spellman said. MDMA not only affects both Mac and PC computers, she added, but also different operating platforms, including Windows 3.1, Windows '95 and Windows NT.

Spellman said computer users can determine before Nov. 1 whether or not their computers are infected and, if so, protect them from potential harm. Users can download virus protection software through the University's World Wide Web site at /virus_patch, or pick up a disk at the IPS Help Center in Gasson Hall or the O'Neill Computing Facility.

Users should scan their computers Thursday afternoon (Oct. 31) to determine if the virus is present, Spellman said. If a message appears saying "You have been infected by the MDMA Virus," she said, users should not turn off their computers: The files are already deleted and the computer, if turned off, will not restart.

Users should make a back-up of all important documents, Spellman continued, and using the virus software, scan and clean documents on their hard disks. "If you are restoring files from back-up, it's very important to make sure these are not infected," she said. "Otherwise, you'll simply be reintroducing the virus to your computer."

For further information on the virus and protection measures, contact the IPS Help Center at ext. 2-4357 or through e-mail at help.center@bc.edu.

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