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Somebody out there doesn’t like lawyers, and he or she is demonstrating that dislike through a computer virus that is triggered by a handful of legal words such as “trial judge,” “affirmed,” “guilty” and “habeas corpus.” Like most viruses, [email protected] comes to lawyers by e-mail, usually from someone they know. The virus sends itself from one infected computer to others by worming its way into a computer’s e-mail program, selecting a few unsuspecting users from the e-mail registry and sending a message with the infected files as an attachment. The subject line in the e-mail is randomly generated by the program, making detection difficult. Once the virus is in the computer, it does major damage by overwriting the hard drive, e-mailing random files — which could be confidential client documents — and causing other technical problems that only techies understand, such as erasing CMOS and flashing the BIOS. As a final flourish, the virus displays this message: “Another haughty bloodsucker XXXX You think you are god, but you are only a chunk of sh–.” John Hollister, a sole practitioner in Troy, Pa., said his legal assistant unwittingly opened an e-mail from a client, and the virus “absolutely killed our laptop dead.” Lawyers who regularly protect their computers with Norton Anti-Virus will be fine; the vaccine against W32.Magistr has been available since March. But Symantec, which sells Norton Anti-Virus, has upgraded the threat of the virus to a Level 4 (high damage) because of widespread reports of infection. More information on the virus, including a list of trigger words, can be found at www.symantec.com.

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