'Thursday' virus outbreak reported

Financial institutions in eight countries have been hit by a Word 97 macro virus.

Network Associates Inc. has reported an outbreak of a Word Macro virus among banks and financial institutions in eight different countries.

The anti-virus software maker said Thursday that its Anti-Virus Emergency Response Team had received the infection notices over the past 24 hours.

The "Thursday" virus was first detected last month, and was reported by several anti-virus companies. It is a Word 97 macro virus that infects the normal.dot file. Network Associates (Nasdaq:NETA) said the virus will attempt to delete all files on a user's C drive on December 13.

A spokesman for the company said that the virus may have spread to at least one other industry, although it does not appear to have begun striking consumers.

Network Associates said a patch for the virus is available at its Web site.

The virus was first detected in London. A spokesman for Network Associates said the concern was that as UK bank offices began talking with their U.S. counterparts, it would "jump the Atlantic" today.

"The virus had not hit many accounts (when it was discovered), but we increased our risk assessment, given that it's starting to spread fairly rapidly among financial institutions," said Gene Hodges, vice president of development at Network Associates.

Hodges said another concern is that the virus is a "sleeper," meaning users may not know they're infected until Dec. 13, when they could lose their files. The date is also an issue because it is so close to the Year 2000 deadline, when companies' IT departments are busy dealing with other problems.


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