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Press Release

Symantec Protects Users From New Melissa Macro Virus

SARC Distributes Detection and Repair Within an Hour of Submission

Cupertino, Calif,. - March 29, 1999 - Symantec Corporation (Nasdaq: SYMC), the world leader in utility software for business and personal computing, today announced that all Norton AntiVirus users on PC-based server and workstation platforms are protected against the W97M.Melissa macro virus discovered early Friday. Within an hour after roughly 28 submissions through the exclusive Scan and Deliver feature in Norton AntiVirus, researchers in the Symantec AntiVirus Research Center (SARC) had returned a complete detection and repair solution to those customers affected. Shortly thereafter, SARC made that solution available to all customers through the LiveUpdate feature in Norton AntiVirus and on the Symantec web site at www.symantec.com.

"Because of the ability to self-replicate through e-mail, the Melissa virus had the potential for much grander scale disruption if it were not for the fast turnaround of Scan and Deliver in Norton AntiVirus and the immediate response of researchers in SARC. With the growing prevalence of e-mail and the Internet within corporations, it is important for networks to be protected at all levels - including e-mail servers as well as the Internet gateway and firewall servers," said Enrique Salem, vice president of Symantec's Security and Assistance Business Unit. "In instances like this, it is important that we get the cure spreading faster than the infection and our automated analysis system played a big part in addressing the issue and getting our customers protected immediately."

Description
W97M.Melissa can infect both Word 97 and Word 2000 documents. Although there is nothing unique in the infection routine of this macro virus, it has an unusual payload that utilizes Microsoft Outlook to send copies of the infected document via e-mail. If a user opens an infected document, the virus will attempt to start Outlook on the user's machine. If Outlook is successfully started, the virus will send e-mail to up to 50 people in the user's Outlook address book, with a copy of the infected document attached. The e-mail subject line reads: "Important Message From USERNAME", where USERNAME is taken from the Microsoft Word settings. The body of the e-mail message says: "Here is that document you asked for ... don't show anyone else. ;-)"

The first known document infected with Melissa is called "list.doc" and contains a list of adult web sites. However, the virus will also infect other documents on the user's machine, using the normal infection mechanisms of macro viruses, even if the user does not have Microsoft Outlook. So, it is potentially possible for a new document from any user's machine to be e-mailed to other people through the following steps:

  1. User opens Document 1 containing Melissa infection.
  2. Melissa also infects a new Document 2 on the user's machine, even if user does not have Outlook.
  3. User manually e-mails Document 2 to another person who has not previously been infected by Melissa and who does have Outlook.
  4. When that new person opens the infected Document 2 on their machine, the document will be e-mailed to 50 people via Outlook.

When a user opens or closes an infected document, the virus first checks to see if it has done this mass e-mailing once before, by checking a key in the registry. The virus will not attempt to do the mass mailing a second time, if it has already been done from the user's machine. However, it does have a second payload which triggers once an hour, at the number of minutes past the hour corresponding to the date (i.e., on the 16th of the month, the payload triggers at 16 minutes after every hour). If an infected document is opened or closed at the appropriate minute, this payload will insert the following sentence into the document: "Twenty-two points, plus triple-word-score, plus fifty points for using all my letters. Game's over. I'm outta here."

Repair Notes
Norton AntiVirus is able to detect and repair this macro virus with the latest set of virus definitions. Customers can obtain this updated definition set via LiveUpdate, Scan and Deliver or from Symantec's web site at www.symantec.com.

Symantec AntiVirus Research Center
SARC is the industry's largest dedicated team of virus experts. With offices located in the United States, Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands, the sun never sets on SARC. The center's mission is to provide swift, global responses to computer virus threats, proactively research and develop technologies that eliminate such threats, and educate the public on safe computing practices. As new computer viruses appear, SARC develops identification and detection for these viruses, and provides either a repair or delete operation, thus keeping users protected against the latest virus threats.

About Symantec
Symantec is the world leader in utility software for business and personal computing. Symantec products and solutions help make users productive and keep their computers safe and reliable anywhere and anytime. Symantec offers a broad range of solutions and is acclaimed as a leader in both customer satisfaction and product brand recognition. Symantec is traded on Nasdaq under the symbol SYMC. More information on the company and its products can be obtained at www.symantec.com.

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