Firms erect firewalls to block 'cyber-terror'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 December, 1999, 12:00am

Fears of a threatened wave of computer viruses programmed to activate on Saturday have forced some SAR companies to block electronic mail during the rollover to the new year.

The move reflects growing fears in the United States that 'cyber-terrorists' will try to mark the millennium by sabotaging computer systems.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority warned of potential risks from year-2000 related computer viruses in a circular it distributed to financial institutions and posted on its Web site yesterday.

'It is important that institutions should be on the alert for these and take measures to safeguard themselves over the coming weeks,' deputy chief executive David Carse said.

The authority's concern follows reports from the United States of a computer virus with a January 1 trigger date that is spread via e-mail.

If a user clicks on the e-mail's attachment, the virus sends a copy of itself to 50 correspondents found in the user's address book.The virus also erases the computer's hard drive.

Jardine Fleming spokesman David Dodwell said the investment bank's e-mail network would collect all mail received over the new year period in a sanitised holding area.

The mail would be scanned with updated anti-virus programs before being opened at the start of business in the new year.

'I expect most of our counterparts across the investment banking business to do the same,' he said.

KPMG IT director Francis Quek said the accounting firm would shut down its e-mail network from tomorrow until January 3.

Despite the concerns harboured by Hong Kong firms, many companies are keeping their networks open. But they have installed anti-virus programs.

A spokesman for the Bank of East Asia said the bank would not stop receiving e-mails, but had installed anti-virus programs in various servers to protect the system.

Morgan Stanley spokesman Gerry Kay said the investment bank would have an anti-virus program in place for the duration of the millennium rollover in order to strip out any attachments to external e-mail messages.