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Pope Airmen Fight Melissa Virus With Y2K Back Up Plan

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POPE AIR FORCE BASE — Airmen atPope Air Force Basedefend the skies, but their latest enemy was a menace to their computer systems. TheMelissa virusprepared the base for potential problems to come.

Those potential problems revolve around the Y2K computer glitch. Pope Air Force Base has had a contingency plan in place for some time now.

It got its first realistic test while airmen were fighting off the Melissa virus.

By the time Pope airmen and other computer users nationwide heard about the Melissa virus, it had already hit.

"One of the things I was concerned about was the privacy act information, social security numbers and phone numbers like recall rosters," said 1st Lt. Steven Labranche, network control center director.

In the network control center for the Air Mobility Command, Labranche worked with ten other airmen around the clock to prevent the virus from spreading on base.

Their efforts worked, but it did require them to shut down the network for a short period of time. The very few people working over the weekend were told to use their Y2K contingency plans.

"If a particular piece of equipment is so vital to perform our wartime function, it's just essential you have to have a back up plan because the time to find out you are not compliant is not on January 1," said MSGT Valencia Applewhite, wing Y2K officer manager.

Virtually all of Pope's 10,000 items on base are now Y2K compliant. Even if there is a problem Jan. 1,Air Forceofficials say Melissa offered them a real world example of how work will continue.

The Melissa virus never infected Pope's classified computer system. The classified network does not include the Internet or outside e-mail making it much more difficult for a virus to spread.

The New Jersey man accused of cooking up the Melissa e-mail virus will be arraigned in court Thursday.

David Smith must answer to criminal charges including conspiracy.

The 30-year-old programmer was arrested last week afterAmerica Onlineofficials traced "Melissa" to his e-mail account.

If convicted, Smith faces up to 40 years in prison and nearly a half million dollars in fines.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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