Melissa virus turns 10. That was not a fun day

From the ‘not so good old days‘ files:

It was 10 years ago today that the Melissa worm changed the IT security landscape. Melissa was the first big virus that went viral and it affected many people personally — including me. Things today in 2009 are quite different, but still it’s interesting to reminisce a little.

I was managing a network at the time, and I remember being in the office of one of the salespeople seeing all these messages fly into his inbox. It was madness. The volume was staggering and I had never seen anything like it.

I ran to my office to see if the same thing was happening on my Mac (a 68K Mac running System 7.5.x — hey it was 1998 after all) and I was getting flooded too. My phone started to ring with other staff complaining of the same issue, the intercom system was blaring with people paging me to their office to look at their computers.

The server room was across the hall from my office, so I dashed in to look at the mail server to see what was going on. The volumes that I saw were shocking and what was worse was that it was obvious that the volume was both inbound and outbound.

So I did the only thing that I knew would stop the problem quickly. I physcially pulled the plug from the ISDN (yeaah remember it was 1998) router to the network. It was only an hour or so later, after a lot more grief, that I found out it was the Melissa virus.

Today networks are configured very differently then they were in 1998.

For one, gateway anti-virus is the norm as well as heuristics based desktop anti-virus. Carriers themselves also tend to do some scanning for their corporate clients to ensure clean pipes. Overall there is a greater awareness of the need for anti-virus measures. For that we can thank Melissa and the early viruses of her generation.

Yet though Melissa is now 10 years past, viruses still pop up and still find vulnerable hosts. There are still countless numbers of PC users that don’t have up to date virus protection and still many that rely on desktop anti-virus alone.

Today as we mark the 10th anniversary of that dark day, let’s all take the time to make sure we’re updated — and hey if you know someone less computer literate then yourself why not help them out to make sure they’re properly protected too.

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