Crime Branch Advisory
The Nigerian Scam
From the Press - Cyber Crime
Melissa virus creator pleads guilty
Thursday, 9 December, 1999, 23:19 GMT
Mr Smith said he knew what he was doing in creating Melissa
A computer programmer in the United
States has admitted creating an e-mail virus which disrupted the
operations of thousands of companies and government agencies around
The virus known as Melissa - believed
to have been named after a Florida stripper its creator knew - caused
more than $80m in damage after it was launched in March.
The programmer, David Smith, faces
up to 10 years in jail and a substantial fine.
David Smith told the New Jersey court
he purposefully broke into systems and knew what he was doing.
Mr Smith, 31, pleaded guilty to a
state charge of computer theft, and later to a federal charge of
damaging a computer program.
I did not expect or
anticipate the amount of damage that took place.
In the federal charge, both sides
acknowledged that the damage was greater than $80m.
Mr Smith said in a statement: "I
did not expect or anticipate the amount of damage that took place
... I had no idea there would be such profound consequences to others.
"In fact, I included features
designed to prevent substantial damage."
Computers became infected when users
received a particular e-mail and opened a Word document attached
The e-mail was headed: "Important
Message From (User Name)" and contained the sentence: "Here
is that document you asked for...don't show anyone else ;-)."
The attachment was usually called list.doc.
If the user launched the document,
their computer became infected, although the worst thing that could
happen apparently was if it was launched when the day equalled the
minute value ... such as 29 minutes past on the 29th, the following
I included features
designed to prevent substantial damage.
"Twenty-two points, plus triple-word-score,
plus 50 points for using all my letters. Game's over. I'm outta
The quote was from Bart of The Simpsons
cartoon show, who invented the word Kwyjibo to describe a North
American ape or his father Homer in a Scrabble-playing episode.
Graver implications of the virus
were for company and Web servers carrying the huge volumes of e-mail
When the document attachment was
launched, a program was created which replicated the e-mail and
sent it to the first 50 addresses in the Global Address Book of
users running Microsoft's Outlook personal organiser.
Microsoft, Network Associates and
other anti-virus and computer security companies issued warnings
and supplied fixes for Melissa.
It has been estimated that the virus
infected more than a million computers.