Lucent caught out by Melissa

Even the mighty Lucent, one of the world's cleverest telecoms companies, has fallen victim to Melissa
Written by Jane Wakefield, Contributor

Lucent Technologies UK, one of the world's leading telecommunications companies, lost all email communication Monday as the Melissa virus claimed another victim.

According to a company spokeswoman, the virus was discovered late Friday, forcing the company to shut down e-mail systems. No outgoing or incoming e-mail has been sent or received since Monday, although internal email is still active. Lucent's IT department is working to "restore it as soon as possible," the spokeswoman said.

Lucent denied the virus had any impact on business: "We can't use our e-mail but it is not as if we have lost all communication with the outside world," the spokeswoman said. Lucent has been relying on fax and telephone communications, "business as usual," said the spokeswoman.

Lucent is not the only leading company affected by Melissa. Other "big boys" have been affected according to Lee Fisher, technology consultant at Network Associates -- formerly Dr Solomon's -- and they don't come much bigger than Microsoft. Both Microsoft and its PR agency Text 100 have suffered problems as a result of the virus.

Microsoft's e-mail servers -- including those in the UK -- were closed down overnight on Friday and according to a spokeswoman "people were told to reduce e-mail sending" on Monday. There are no infected e-mail systems left in Microsoft's UK headquarters according to a spokesman.

Technical director of Symantec Kevin Street believes "scores of companies" have been forced to close down e-mail servers although few are admitting it.

Alex Shipp, virus technologist for Gloucestershire-based ISP, Star, has been monitoring and scanning e-mail since Melissa emerged and says mail has been significantly reduced. Shipp is not surprised companies are reluctant to admit they've been hit: "They've lost money. People rely on e-mail for business and will be losing money every minute," he said.

Melissa has been a wake-up call for the business community according to Shipp, who believes firms will be increasingly looking to ISPs to protect them from virus attacks.

"Within two years ISPs will have to offer virus scanning or they will be out of business," he said.

Shipp believes massive publicity surrounding the virus will ensure most companies will end the week "Melissa free" but with over 1000 companies contacting Network Associates during the past two days, the impact cannot be underestimated and copycats are appearing as swiftly as the original virus spread.

Discovered on Monday, one hybrid, the Papa virus, has taken the code from Melissa and altered it to infect Excel spreadsheets. Although it is not in the wild yet it has been released on a newsgroup in the same way as Melissa and sends infected e-mail messages to 60 recipients in the user's address book.

Take me to the Melissa Virus special.

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