American Express Institutional Services, Minneapolis, took emergency action earlier this month to stop the spread of a computer virus on about 90 software demonstration diskettes sent to reporters and investment management consultants.
The virus, called WELCOMB or BUPT.9146, was copied onto the diskettes from a master version of the American Express SmartData software program by an external data consultant, Interactive Direct, based in Eden Prairie, Minn.
The virus was not detected with Interactive Data's standard virus checking programs - Norton Utilities, Central Point Software and Microsoft Antivirus. Interactive Data is still tracing the source of the virus.
The virus was discovered when a consultant popped the diskette into his computer and ran a check using McAfee Associates Inc. anti-virus software. He called American Express, which alerted reporters and consultants immediately.
The WELCOMB virus reportedly is not especially destructive. The virus will not destroy files or data on its own, but there is a chance it could interfere with a full hard drive's ability to remember where it stored files if the computer was accidentally booted up using the disk, said Mike Bonner, president of Interactive Data in a letter to American Express press and consultant clients.
Barbara Buchman, an American Express spokeswoman, said the problem was isolated to Interactive Data's systems and not dangerous, but the company wanted to be sure to alleviate any inconvenience. New diskettes and a copy of the McAfee virus anti-virus software will be sent to the 90 recipients.
The diskettes were used to introduce SmartData, a defined contribution plan sponsor reporting tool now available for use in DC client remote sites, with a direct connection to the record keeping data on American Express' central data base.