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Virus on Computer Disks Spurs Elek-Tek to Order Recall

Wilma Randle, Chicago Tribune 1/18/92

Discovery of a computer "virus" on a number of pre-formatted floppy diskettes sold by a north suburban computer retailer has resulted in a product recall, as well as offers by the company, Elek-Tek Inc., to repair any computers infected as a result.

If the problem, identified by the company as the "Ping Pong" or "Hong Kong" virus, is not noticed by a computer owner, or goes untreated, it could destroy information stored in a computer's main hard drive.

An Elek-Tel service representative said the diskettes, which were sold under the Elek-Tek brand name, included 3.5 - inch and 5.25 - inch disks. But cheif executive Morton Goldman said late Friday afternoon the diskettes in question were only the 3.5-inch. Goldman downplayed any suggestion that the virus problem was serious.

"We find it to be an extremely small issue at this time," he said. Goldman wouldn't say how many "infected" diskettes have been sold, or how many customers might be affected.

Complaints from two customers alerted the company to the problem, Goldman said. When the company first checked, it didn't find anything wrong. Then it found that, indeed, some of the diskettes were defective.

"We stopped selling them immediately. And we got a computer printout and contacted each of those customers. It appears that a small percentage of diskettes have been infected," Goldman said.

Those customers who have been advised to return the diskettes to Elek-Tek are also being told to bring their computers in for "treatment."

"If they bring in their computers, we will use an anti-virus program to clean out the hard drive and the software at no charge to them," Goldman said.

The infected diskettes appear to be those sold since the beginning of December. All of the infected diskettes will be returned to the manufacturer, Goldman said.

Bob Holden, a self-employed writer who works out of his home in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, is one of the computer owners who was affected by the problem.

In December, Holden ordered 54 pre-formatted diskettes by mail order from Elek-Tek. Immediately after inserting one, he started having problems. He was unable to copy files to the new diskettes, and he began having trouble getting accurate directory listings from any of his disks.

Holden said he spent $65 to replace a part on the computer that he suspected as being the source of the problem. He also had technicians check the disk drives, motherboard, and even his version of the computer's operating system before realizing it was the disks.

"I'm furious about this. They won't do it [repair the computer] while I wait. It will take two or three days. That kind of time loss is devastating if you depend on your computer as much as I do."

And, he said, that the virus should come from the diskettes is uncommon. "This is not the way viruses are normally transmitted. When you open a sealed package of diskettes, you don't expect this kind of thing. I think Elek-Tek has a lot of explaining to do."

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