Experts Continue To Search for Melissa’s Author

Computer experts are continuing their search for the author of the “Melissa” e-mail virus, saying late Tuesday a fingerprint used by Microsoft Office programs could lead them to the person responsible.

Meanwhile, the person whose America Online account was used to send the e-mail is denying any connection with the virus and is protesting AOL’s security procedures.

The Melissa virus was first seen late Friday and spread quickly around the world. In many cases, it brought e-mail servers to a halt.

Meanwhile, Richard Smith, president of a small New England software firm told the Associated Press he thinks a virus writer who goes by the handle “VicodinES” is responsible for Melissa. He believes the person used someone else’s America Online account to distribute it.

VicodinES is the name of a prescription painkiller.

Smith said he has submitted all his information to the FBI which is investigating the virus.

Microsoft Office attaches a digital fingerprint to documents that is different on every computer it is installed on. Smith believes that by examining documents that have Melissa attached, investigators may be able to determine who wrote it.

In a report, Scott Steinmetz, whose AOL account was apparently used to originally transmit the virus, said he planned to cancel his account in the wake of the problem.

AOL said it is looking into Steinmetz’s complaint and has not yet determined whether someone accessed Steinmetz’s account without his knowledge.

Steinmetz said his e-mail traffic climbed to 20 an hour once the virus started rapidly spreading. The FBI said it could launch a formal probe into the virus if it determines its spread was a criminal act.

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