Melissa Virus


The Melissa Virus is a macro virus that emerged in 1999, targeting Microsoft Word and Outlook applications. It spread rapidly through email attachments, posing as an important message with a list of passwords for pornographic websites. Upon opening the attachment, the virus would send itself to the top 50 contacts in the user’s address book, causing email servers to overload and disrupt normal operations.

Key Takeaways

  1. The Melissa Virus was a fast-spreading email-based macro virus that was first identified in March 1999, causing widespread damage to computer systems and networks around the world.
  2. It propagated through Microsoft Word documents and emails, effectively exploiting Microsoft Outlook’s address book to send itself to the first 50 contacts of the infected user, which ultimately led to email server overloads and disruption of normal email services.
  3. David L. Smith, the individual behind the creation and release of the Melissa Virus, was successfully identified and prosecuted. This case set a precedent for future cybersecurity investigations and legal actions against creators of other malicious software programs.


The Melissa Virus is important within the landscape of technology and cybersecurity, as it marks a significant moment in the history of computer viruses.

This notorious macro virus, which was released in March of 1999 by David L.

Smith, rapidly spread through email systems causing widespread damage, disruption, and drawing attention to the dangers of email-based malware.

The Melissa Virus not only infected users’ computers through Microsoft Word documents, but it also exploited Microsoft Outlook’s address book, sending the virus to fifty other individuals in the user’s contact list, leading to a rapid global spread of the infection.

The virus demonstrated the impact and the threat that malware could pose to both individuals and organizations, ultimately shifting the focus of cybersecurity measures at the time and influencing the development of future defenses against similar attacks.


The Melissa Virus was initially designed with a purpose of infiltrating users’ email accounts in order to propagate itself on a massive scale. It was unleashed in 1999 and served as a macro virus, specifically affecting Microsoft Word documents and Outlook email clients. Its primary use was to exploit individuals’ personal information and networks by tricking them into opening seemingly benign email attachments.

Once the attachment was opened, the virus would execute its code to infiltrate the user’s email client, subsequently proliferating itself by sending emails to the first 50 contacts in the user’s address book. This rapid dissemination method significantly amplified the virus’ reach and impact on unsuspecting users. In addition to its self-proliferation capacities, the Melissa Virus was capable of causing disruptions to email servers.

Its widespread propagation generated a substantial amount of email traffic, effectively resulting in a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. This consequently caused various email servers to be overwhelmed by the volume of messages, leading to slowdowns and even temporary shutdowns of affected systems. Though the virus’ primary use was to exploit personal information and networks, its unintended consequences highlight the broader implications of such malware, including potential infrastructural damage and its role in setting precedents for future digital threats.

Examples of Melissa Virus

The Melissa Virus is a specific instance of a computer virus that affected numerous computers inAs a single event, it does not have multiple real-world examples. However, I can provide you with three aspects or effects of the Melissa Virus:

Widespread Impact: The Melissa Virus caused widespread disruption in the IT world, affecting corporations, government agencies, and personal computers alike. It forced the shutdown of email servers in organizations such as Microsoft, Intel, and the United States Department of Defense due to the rapid spread of the virus through email.Rapid Proliferation: The Melissa Virus was known for its fast-spreading nature. It would send itself to the first 50 contacts in the infected user’s address book, increasing the reach of the virus exponentially. Consequently, the virus quickly spread across the internet within hours of its initial release.

Legal Outcome: The Melissa Virus led to the arrest of its creator, David L. Smith, who was charged with multiple counts, including second-degree computer theft. Smith eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison and a $5,000 fine inThis case highlighted the growing need for cybersecurity and the potential legal consequences for those creating and distributing harmful computer viruses.

FAQ: Melissa Virus

1. What is the Melissa Virus?

The Melissa Virus is a macro virus that was first discovered in March 1999. It primarily spread through infected Microsoft Word documents sent via email. The virus was capable of replicating itself and sending itself to a large number of email addresses found in the infected user’s address book.

2. Who created the Melissa Virus?

The Melissa Virus was created by David L. Smith, an American programmer. He named the virus after a Floridian exotic dancer that he knew. In December 1999, Smith pleaded guilty to creating and releasing the virus.

3. How does the Melissa Virus work?

The Melissa Virus works by embedding itself in a Microsoft Word document and using the program’s macro capabilities to execute its code. When an infected document is opened, the virus activates and searches for the user’s Outlook address book. It then sends copies of the infected document to the first 50 email addresses it finds in the address book.

4. What are the consequences of the Melissa Virus infection?

The consequences of the Melissa Virus can include loss of data, compromised email accounts, and system slowdowns. The virus was also responsible for causing a significant amount of network congestion due to the large volume of emails it sent, impacting businesses and internet service providers.

5. How can the Melissa Virus be removed?

To remove the Melissa Virus from an infected system, users should first update their antivirus software with the latest virus definitions. Next, they should run a full system scan to identify and remove any infected files. Additionally, the system should be disconnected from the internet during the removal process to prevent the virus from spreading further.

6. How can the Melissa Virus be prevented?

To prevent the Melissa Virus or similar viruses, users should maintain updated antivirus software and avoid opening email attachments from unknown sources. It is also important to keep all software, operating systems, and email clients up-to-date with security patches to minimize the risk of infection.

Related Technology Terms

  • Email Worm
  • Macro Virus
  • Microsoft Word
  • Mass Mailing
  • Computer Security

Sources for More Information

  • Symantec Corporation – A leading cybersecurity company that provides information about various viruses, including the Melissa Virus.
  • McAfee – A well-known antivirus and cybersecurity company that offers detailed information about the Melissa Virus and other malware threats.
  • Norton by Symantec – A popular antivirus and internet security software provider with resources on the Melissa Virus and other cybersecurity threats.
  • Sophos – A global cybersecurity company that provides in-depth information on the Melissa Virus and other types of malware.

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