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Virus created a busy time for SCO worker

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OREM — In late January, Blake Stowell received a telephone call from a technology reporter. As the head of public relations for The SCO Group, a Lindon-based computer software maker, he normally fielded these types of calls, but this time the reporter tipped Stowell off to a pending hailstorm.

In the few minutes that followed, Stowell realized that his company would be the victim of a fourth computer virus to target the servers that house the company's Web site.

As days passed, Mydoom, one of the worlds largest and most pervasive computer viruses, took hold of computers worldwide. In the end it infected nearly one in five e-mail addresses.

However, as the public front man at SCO, Stowell had to endure his own attack by media outlets worldwide wanting to know what the company was going to do.

"I just wanted to scream," Stowell said about dealing with nearly 100 different media outlets around the world. "I couldn't help them fast enough. Now I just think what a headache that was."

Some have suspected that Linux supporters were the culprits in the attack on SCO. SCO has been locked in litigation and verbal sparring with companies using that "open-source" computer operating system because it believes they have illegally placed some of SCO's Unix operating system source code into Linux.

To combat the virus, which caused infected computers to access SCO's Web site multiple times, each minute, the company contemplated spending nearly $1 million to mirror its site. By mirroring the site, www.sco.com would not be housed in one location but in many worldwide.

If one located couldn't be reached, a user would be diverted to the exact same site but in a different locale.

However, dispensing nearly $1 million didn't seem like the answer. Instead the company opted to just change its Web address.

Mydoom had been programmed to only contact www.sco.com. On Feb. 2, a day after the virus took effect, the company changed its Web address to www.thescogroup.com. As long as the virus programmer didn't alter the code to access the new site, damage could be averted.

Stowell had to field calls from major media around the world from about 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the first week of the attack.

"I saw my family for an hour that week," said Stowell, who has five children.

Now Stowell has returned to more normal hours.

The Mydoom virus infected roughly 2 million servers around the world and caused nearly $1 billion in damage, including lost labor time.

"I'm glad it's over," Stowell said.

Someone even posted the home address and telephone number of SCO's president and CEO, Darl McBride. People from around the world inundated the McBride home with calls starting that first Super Bowl Sunday.

"Your home is your domain; it's personal," Stowell said.

Someone even sent a box of live worms to the McBrides via FedEx.

"I don't wish to have (the same experience) anytime in the future," he said.

Yet for all the battle, Stowell said the press coverage helped the company.

"I think we came out ahead," he said.

E-mail: jburke@desnews.com