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    Definitions 3 min read
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    The Melissa virus is a type of mass-mailing macro virus that has been around since 1999. It is designed to target programs based on Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Word. The virus is delivered through email, which offers a list of log-in credentials for pornographic websites. The free access to several pornographic websites is the bait used to lure the users into clicking the attached file, which is typically a .doc file. If the user clicks on the file, not only does the virus affect that computer but it is also designed to forward the email to the first fifty contacts from the user’s Outlook contact list.

    What damage can the Melissa virus do? 

    The Melissa virus is designed to bypass several security protocols on Microsoft Outlook and Word. The automatic forwarding mechanism of the virus means it has the ability to spread exponentially. The virus is not designed to steal data, but it can cause serious disruption to internet traffic and email servers. When it was first released, Melissa caused major internet disruption to companies and government agencies. Some company servers, including some Microsoft servers, had become so overloaded, they had to be shut down entirely.

    Why was the Melissa virus created? 

    The unprecedented disruption caused by the virus to the internet in 1999 was a wake-up call for everyday computer users, software manufacturers, government agencies, and corporations. The creator of the Melissa software was arrested following an investigation by the FBI.

    According to the creator of the virus, the purpose of the Melissa virus was just to be a “harmless joke”. The U.S. Justice Department sentenced the creator to 20 months in U.S. federal prison and a $5,000 fine. 

    Unfortunately, the Melissa virus had a lasting impact as it inspired several other malware attacks in the years that followed. For the computer industry and enterprise users around the world, Melissa’s damage made them realize the vulnerability of the system and forced them to develop better security protocols and systems to stop such attacks.

    How to protect your business from the Melissa virus?

    There have been significant improvements in computer security systems including the popularity of anti-virus software. However, intruders and hackers are on the lookout for new ways to penetrate the security system. Keep in mind that opening the Melissa email does not download the virus on the computer; however, if the attached file is downloaded or clicked, then the virus can attack the computer. 

    To protect your computer from the Melissa virus and other types of malware attacks, it is best to be extra cautious when opening emails that look suspicious and use high-quality anti-virus software.  


    For more information on how to prevent damage by the Melissa virus and other malware, check out eSecurityPlanet.com’s How to Prevent Different Types of Malware.