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Wednesday, April 19, 2000

State’s technology
czar Blanco sick
over being stung
by a computer virus

The aide may inadvertently
have sent it to 500 others

By Tim Ruel


Senate Majority Leader Les Ihara Jr. opened his email a few days ago to find a message from the state's technology czar that contained a program called PrettyPark.

"I tried to open it, because it came from Joe Blanco," Ihara said yesterday. Blanco is Gov. Ben Cayetano's technology adviser.

Before Ihara could run the program, however, his computer's anti-virus software lit up with a message: Don't open it.

It's a good thing Ihara (D-Kaimuki) didn't run PrettyPark. It's a computer virus that can spread like wildfire when opened.

Roughly 500 people may have received the file from Blanco's email software, including Cayetano.

"I had no idea it was sending it out," Blanco said.

PrettyPark is a worm virus, which copies itself by spreading from computer to computer. Once opened, the virus enters a computer's email address book and sends itself to everyone in the book.

Blanco's email program, Microsoft Outlook Express, copies the address of everyone he writes into its address book. That's why 500 people received the infected email, he said.

Those who get the virus by email can only infect their computers by running the PrettyPark program, and should delete the email immediately, Blanco said.

Once the virus has infected a computer, it releases confidential information from the hard drive, including passwords, to others on the Internet.

"I'm changing all my passwords," Blanco said.

PrettyPark originated in France last year, then resurfaced earlier this year in different forms. Its name comes from the TV show "South Park," a satirical cartoon on Comedy Central.

Experts differ on how many computers PrettyPark has infected, though anti-virus software maker Symantec Corp. estimates it to be in the thousands.

Blanco's computer didn't have anti-virus software as new as Ihara's, which is why he didn't get an alarm.

Blanco said he immediately bought new software for his home and office computers, both of which were infected with PrettyPark. His laptop is his only computer that didn't get the virus.

Meanwhile, the state Division of Information and Communications Services warned government employees of the virus attack.

At least 97 people wrote Blanco back to warn him that they found the virus, he said.

"I'm sorry," he said yesterday.

Blanco, who wasn't sure who originally sent him the email with the virus, said the incident has made him more sensitive about viruses.

Blanco noted that virus makers go after technology institutions all the time, including Microsoft Corp. "At the same token, I'm very embarrassed about it," Blanco said.

For more information about PrettyPark and other computer viruses, visit or on the Internet.

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