04 May 2004

Internet virus causes global havoc

Internet virus causes global havoc:

Neil McIntosh
The Guardian

A computer virus was spreading rapidly across the internet last night, causing disruption in homes and businesses from London to Sydney.

The internet worm, called Sasser, was discovered on the internet on Friday night and has already caused disruption in railways and coastguard operations as well as computer reservation systems and bank networks. A computerised mapping system at Britain's Maritime and Coastguard Agency was brought down by the worm, forcing the organisation to continue its work using pen and paper.

In Taiwan, the postal service reported that around a third of its branch offices' computer systems had been knocked out by Sasser, while government departments and hospitals in Hong Kong were also affected. Reuters reported that, in Germany, the virus struck 300,000 post office computers, preventing staff from issuing cash. In Australia, the worm was thought to be behind computer problems which left 300,000 train passengers stranded at the weekend after radio communications were cut between train drivers and signal boxes in Sydney.

Virus experts say a Russian programming team calling itself the Skynet Anti-virus Group has claimed responsibility for the worm. The group is thought to have been behind a number of online attacks.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at anti-virus company Sophos, said the Skynet group was taking advantage of the confusion created by Sasser by circulating emails claiming to offer an antidote to the worm. When users open a file attached to the email, they are being infected with another virus, called Netsky."

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