NEW YORK -- A new computer virus, said to be both smarter and more destructive than the worldwide ''Love Bug'' plague that inspired it, has surfaced but was not spreading rapidly today, according to Internet bug watchers.
The CERT Coordination Center, a government-chartered computer emergency team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, reported that as of 7 a.m. CDT, it had ''received no direct reports of infections related to this virus.''
The virus was detected at several large companies late Thursday, said Dave Perry, spokesman for anti-virus software maker Trend Micro Inc., based in Cupertino, Calif. At one company, 5,000 computers were infected, he said. He would not identify any of the companies affected.
While the ''Love Bug'' was given away by the ''ILOVEYOU'' subject line of the e-mails that carried it, the new virus changes subject lines every time it is sent. Also, it destroys most of the files on the computers it infects, causing potentially catastrophic losses of data.
''Each time the virus spreads, it mutates itself to evade detection,'' Symantec Corp., another Cupertino-based anti-virus software maker, said in a statement.
The subject line of an infected e-mail starts with ''FW: '' and includes the name of a randomly chosen attachment from a previous e-mail on an infected computer. The e-mail will have an attachment with the same name, but ending in ''.vbs.''
Clicking on the attachment will activate the virus. Like ''Love Bug,'' it will send itself to everyone in the user's address book. It will then overwrite most files on the hard drive, rendering the computer useless until the operating system is reinstalled.
So far, Microsoft's Outlook is the only e-mail program the virus is attacking, said Anita Chen, a spokeswoman for Trend Micro. Microsoft has said it will next week make available a modification to Outlook that will warn users about suspect e-mail attachments.
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