The Hunt to Track the Melissa Hack

Investigators are determined to trace the virus

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It's the online equivalent of the SWAT squad kicking in the wrong door. Investigators hot on the trail of the Melissa computer virus thought they'd got their man when they tracked the virus back to Sky Roket, an AOL user who posted the Microsoft Word macro virus last Friday in the alt.sex newsgroup on a Norway computer. But yesterday it quickly became clear that "Sky Roket" had been hijacked from an unsuspecting AOL user, Scott Steinmetz, who now says he'll close his account because of a lack of security.

"It was not the person who owns the Sky Roket address who created Melissa, but a person who had stolen that identity," says Sol Viveros, a marketing manager for Network Associates, the computer security firm that is working with the FBI to investigate Melissa. The search is being narrowed with help of telltale signs that include the hacker's mode of operating, from backtracking the way the virus spread over the Internet and by picking apart the programming makeup of the virus itself. MORE>>