Chernobyl, a 3-year-old virus that devastated thousands of computers worldwide when it first hit in 1999, is set to become active again Thursday, according to anti-virus company Trend Micro Inc. The virus, officially called CIH but better known by its more incendiary moniker, is triggered every April 26.
The virus is only medium risk because it has been successfully removed from most computers, with April 2000 seeing only 5 percent of the number of infections in 1999, Trend Micro said. Some computers, however, may still be infected, the company said.
Chernobyl is unusually destructive and thus a medium risk. The virus, which was first discovered in 1998, can delete a computer's entire hard drive and corrupt its BIOS, leaving it unbootable, Trend Micro said. During the virus' most famous outbreak, in 1999, China sustained more than US$291 million in damage and Korea lost $300 million.
Though Chernobyl did not cause as much damage in the United States as it did internationally in 1999, one U.S. resident who got burned by Chernobyl was Thom Denick. At the time a college student, now a Web designer, Denick's brush with the virus began when his computer crashed while he was playing a 3D game.
This was common for him at the time, Denick said, and he thought nothing of it. However, when he rebooted his PC, "all I got was a message (saying) 'Operating System not found.'" After hearing news reports and doing some research at his college's library, Denick determined that he had been struck by Chernobyl.
The lost hard drive "had everything I had ever written on (it), and I didn't have it backed up," he said. He even lost a term paper due at the end of the week, which he had to rewrite.
Denick, who lives in Boston, was able to eventually recover the data on his drive with one of the repair programs that was written in the wake of CIH. The drive that he saved, though, crashed for good on its second use after recovery.
Computer users who follow proper anti-virus measures, including making sure that anti-virus programs are up to date and scanning computers regularly, should be able to avoid such disasters.