Birthday threat from the PC virus

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The Independent Online
CHARLES ARTHUR

Science Correspondent

Before you turn your PC on today, consider a couple of facts: today would be the 521st birthday of Michelangelo, the Renaissance painter, and it is also the fifth birthday of Michelangelo, the computer virus that wreaks havoc with hard disks.

If your computer is "infected" with the Michelangelo virus, the hard disk will be wiped clean when you turn it on today. Anyone who has an IBM-compatible PC may be at risk, including those running Microsoft's newer operating system, Windows 95. Users of Apple's Macintosh range are safe, however, as they cannot run programs, or viruses, which were written for IBM machines.

The companies which specialise in anti-virus products and in recovering data from computers which have been "wiped", are bracing themselves for a flood of calls.

The Michelangelo virus first came to the world's notice in 1991 when an estimated five million computers were affected worldwide. It spreads between computers by secretly putting a copy of itself on to any floppy disk that is inserted into the machine at any time. The virus then lurks in the PC's memory, waiting for the correct date before it triggers itself, with catastrophic results.

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