E-mail virus attacks peninsula computers

Posted: Wednesday, December 27, 2000

The director of an area nonprofit agency got a shock when she opened the attachment to an e-mail from a similar agency in California.

Betsy Arbelovsky, director of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Economic Development District in North Kenai, said the number of files in her e-mail "sent" file suddenly began to grow.

"My outbox was at 128, 129. All of a sudden, I'd sent 750 e-mails," she said.

The culprit was a virus now circulating through the Kenai Peninsula. A copy came Tuesday to a Clarion reporter with the title, "A great Shockwave flash movie" and Arbelovsky's return address. The message was, "Check out this new flash movie that I downloaded just now ... It's Great Bye."

However, the Hotmail e-mail server flagged the attachment -- a file called "creative.exe" -- as the carrier of a virus.

Arbelovsky said she received the tainted mail from the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center in San Francisco. It came from a sender Arbelovsky knew as a fellow board member on a national organization for operators of small-business incubators.

As soon as Arbelovsky realized what was happening, she began deleting messages as fast as she could from her "sent" file.

"I quick called the borough to warn them, but their virus protection had already caught it," she said.

Then, she started trying to recall e-mails that got away.

"I spent an hour and 20 minutes trying to correct this problem," she said.

Later, she talked to a worker at the city of Soldotna who had received her e-mail and opened the attachment. The virus went to everyone on her e-mail address list. Now, Arbelovsky is sorting through return e-mails from people on her address list who received the virus.

"My computer is working fine, so I hope everyone else's is, too," she said.

Bob Jones, computer systems manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, said the borough subscribes to a virus-protection system from a company called McAfee. That scans incoming e-mails for known viruses and also quarantines e-mails with attached files that have suspicious extensions. Files ending with ".exe" and ".vbs" extensions often harbor viruses, he said.

Once an e-mail lands in the "sent" file, he said, it probably is too late to stop. The "recall" function depends on the compatibility of the sender's e-mail system, the e-mail server and the recipient's e-mail system, he said, and recalls seldom work.

"The best bet is to make sure you have a wall to cover yourself," he said.

He said the key factor in subscribing to a virus protection company is not the software the company provides, but the frequency with which the company updates its list of known viruses and provides subscribers with the information to detect them.

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