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E-mail 'worm' apathy warning issued

August 3, 2001

AUSTRALIANS should not ignore the latest e-mail virus, Code Red, even though its effects have been minimal, a computer expert warned yesterday.

Australian Computer Emergency Response Team general manager Rob McMillan said Code Red had affected Australian-based websites that used the Microsoft IIS, NT and 2000 operating systems.

"There have been some effects in Australia, it has been notable but it is not as severe as we have seen in the past," Mr McMillan said.

AusCERT has received a steady stream of inquires from Australian companies that use the software the Code Red worm targets.

"Just about any organisation could be using the vulnerable system because it is certainly a popular piece of software," Mr McMillan said.

Unlike a normal computer virus, which needs a person to help it spread, a worm infects other computers on its own. It does not affect most home computers.

Officials were worried the outbreak would be as crippling as Code Red's first appearance on July 19, in which more than 250,000 systems were infected in nine hours.

As a result, there were widespread slowdowns and outages across the Internet. This time, the worm has had a much lower infection rate.

But computer users should still download a software patch from Microsoft to inoculate their systems from the worm.

Website administrators running Microsoft Windows NT and 2000 operating systems, along with the Internet Information Services software, are vulnerable unless the patch is installed. Users running Windows 95, 98 or Me are not affected.

Code Red is programmed to keep trying to infect computers until August 19 when it goes into attack mode, sending junk data to the White House's website.

Owners of infected computers can turn their computers off and on again to clear out the worm, but still need to install Microsoft's patch.

By STEVE WARDILL, Copyright © News Limited


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