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Man arrested over Melissa e-mail virus

STATE OFFICIALS in New Jersey announced yesterday that they had arrested the man they believe launched Melissa, the computer virus that played havoc with hundreds of thousands of company electronic-mail systems at the beginning of the week.

David Smith, a 30-year-old computer enthusiast of Aberdeen, central New Jersey, was picked up on Thursday at his brother's house in nearby Eatontown, charged with being the originator of the virus and taken to Monmouth County Jail, according to the state attorney-general's office.

He had been the object of an intensive hunt involving the Federal Bureau of Investigation, local law-enforcement agencies and computer experts acting as amateur sleuths.

Although details of the investigation are sketchy, it appears that the originator of Melissa was tracked down to an Internet service provider based in Orlando, Florida.

Melissa is the fastest- spreading virus to hit the Internet. It arrived at workstations as an e-mail, which was instantly sent to 50 other recipients on opening and contained a list of pornographic websites as an attachment. It brought to a halt the computer systems of several private companies and government offices because of the overload.