Rumors of a potentially nasty virus that hits on the 26th day of each month are making the newsgroup rounds, but experts say the chances of such an attack taking place are slim.
The virus, W95.CIH, strikes when an infected Windows 95 or 98 program is opened or run. Unlike macro-viruses, which are attached to smaller files like documents or spreadsheets, the CIH virus is attached to "executable" files that typically contain larger applications. Thus the chances for widespread contamination are small, experts say.
"Very few people send a big application, so it's not going to spread significantly through normal interaction," said Carey Nachenberg, product manager for Symantec Anti-virus Research Center, who said the potentially dangerous virus was first reported in Asia about two months ago. "Macro-viruses are a much bigger problem."
Anyone who runs a standard anti-virus application from Symantec or Trend Micro should be protected against the CIH virus, according to both companies' Web sites.
"We've only received a couple of reports from end users," said Nachenberg, who nonetheless cautioned: "If it does infect, it spreads very quickly and will infect any executable. The whole system will be infected very rapidly."