Computer virus experts are warning that rogue programmers' next big trick is likely to be millennium viruses. None has yet been spotted, but the significant date and concern over the millennium bug will be too tempting for rogue programmers to resist.
According to a story by The Times of London and appearing on the Fox News website, E-mail containing year 2000 greetings cards and fabulous millennium offers are expected to spread viruses.
The article says the latest trick for virus writers is to gain access to an e-mail user's address book to get names and addresses to send rogue programs so that the recipients believe they have received something from a trusted friend.
This method was used to spread the infamous Melissa virus last month as well as the lesser-known Happy99 virus. The latter looks as though it is a greetings card from a friend. When the program runs, a message appears alongside fireworks wishing the user a "Happy 1999". However, at the same time a virus infects the program files used by a computer to communicate with other computers, which can lead to Net browsing and e-mail difficulties.
According to Paul Ducklin, a security expert with the anti-virus software company Sophos, that is just a taste of what is to come. "If that's what happened with an insignificant date like 1999, the mind boggles at what virus writers have got lined up to mark the end of the millennium," he says. At the simplest level a program with a single line of rogue code could be e-mailed to computers to wind their clocks forward. Any computer that is not millennium compliant would fail.