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‘Friday the 13th’ Virus Strikes Computers

January 13, 1989 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ A ″Friday the 13th″ virus struck personal computers in Britain on Friday in what experts said may have been a new manifestation of a computer virus that originated in Israel.

Hundreds of personal computer users found the virus was programmed to delete files on Friday the 13th, said Alan Solomon, managing director of S and S Enterprises, a data recovery center in Chesham.

″It has been frisky and hundreds of people, including a large firm with over 400 computers, have telephoned with their problems,″ he said.

Several U.S. computer-security experts said they had not received any reports that the virus had cropped up inside the United States.

The virus bore many of the characteristics of one that had been programmed to go off on Friday, May 13, 1988, the day before the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel. That virus was first noticed at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and later spread to Europe.

Security experts said it was logical that a virus that was set to go off on one Friday the 13th would also go off on subsequent Friday the 13ths unless it was completely eradicated. This was the first Friday the 13th since the one in May 1988.

″It is just a pesky nuisance and is causing a lot of problems today,″ said Solomon, who also is chairman of an IBM personal computer users group.

The virus apparently attacked Microsoft Corp.’s MS-DOS, the software that runs the internal operations of the original line of International Business Machines Corp. personal computers and compatible models.

There were no estimates of how widespread the damage from the virus was. The Israeli newspaper Maariv said that in one case the original Israeli virus destroyed $15,000 worth of software and two disks in which 7,000 hours of work had been invested.

The Israel virus, for some reason, possibly an error by its creator, began eating up space and slowing down computers before May 13, 1988. Solomon said the latest virus also ate up room in computers and slowed them down before Friday.

A spokesman for IBM in Portsmouth, who did not want to be identified further, confirmed the virus had wiped out files in personal computers made by IBM and compatible machines. The virus apparently did not affect personal computers in offices of IBM itself, however, said Colette Abissi, an IBM spokeswoman in Purchase, N.Y.

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The identity of the hacker who devised the virus might never be known, Solomon said.

″The important thing is not to panic and start trying to delete everything in a bid to remove the virus as that can do untold damage,″ he said.

As long as master disks are free from the virus, files can simply be copied from them and used again, he said.

ST