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Most New York lawyers who receive e-mail from partners at Cravath, Swaine & Moore or Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz would likely open it right away. Tuesday, that might have been a big mistake. No sooner had law firm information technology departments finished getting systems back online after the massive blackout that crippled much of the eastern United States last week than a new problem emerged in a wave of computer viruses. Tuesday morning, e-mails purportedly coming from countless legitimate addresses, including those of lawyers and staff at major firms, poured into inboxes across the legal community and around the world bearing the “sobig” virus in the form of a .pif attachment. The self-replicating virus, which arrives in e-mails carrying subject lines like “re: your details” and “re: wicked screensaver,” searches infected computers for other e-mail addresses and sends itself to them. Law firm IT directors said it was one of the fastest-spreading viruses they had seen. “We’ve gotten 500 hits since this morning,” Greta Ostrovitz, the chief technology officer at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, said Tuesday. “It came on very quickly. We’ve been watching it closely.” At Cadwalader and other firms, filtering software prevented the virus from getting very far into systems. In some instances, the e-mails arrived without their attachments, generating a small amount of confusion for the lawyers receiving them, but no greater harm. The “sobig” headache arrived right on the heels of another menace: the “good worm” virus that has been replicating in computers repairing damage from last week’s Blaster virus, which crashed the computers it infected. The “good worm” has not been damaging computers, but its self-replication has clogged Internet communications at many firms. “I’ve been searching my mind to see what’s good about it,” Dewey Ballantine executive director Dennis D’Alessandro said of the “good worm.” Early Tuesday morning, shortly after midnight, the “good worm” started halting outgoing e-mail at the firm. The IT staff was called in and worked all night to get the systems up and running before most of the firm’s lawyers showed up for work. Nancy Karen, the chief information officer of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood, noted the two viruses also coincided with an e-mail scam that had hit a number of lawyers at her firm. In the scam, e-mail recipients were informed of problems with their Citibank checking account and directed to an authentic-looking but fake Citibank Web site to enter account information. She said one Sidley lawyer almost used the fake site but became suspicious that the e-mail was sent to his work address and not his home one. Between the scam and the two self-replicating viruses, Tuesday was no slow summer day for law firm IT staff. “I’ve been sending out warnings all day,” said Karen.

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