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Worm infects computers at ABC and CNN

(Posted August 17, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

A fast-moving computer worm dug up a heap of problems to several media companies Tuesday, forcing CNN to do some fast footwork up and down the East Coast and ABC News employees to turn to the typewriter to write scripts.

The worm, which causes computers to reboot constantly, affected only a portion of CNN's computers in Atlanta and at the Time Warner Center in New York between 5-6:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday while its new show, "The Situation Room," was live. CNN soon had a situation of its own, with Windows 2000 computers used to write scripts and do other jobs vital to CNN's telecasts rendered unusable.

CNN made the most of the computer chaos, not only rushing behind the scenes to fix the problems but also covering it live on TV. A spokeswoman said Tuesday that none of the computers in Washington was affected; "Situation Room" is run out of Washington.

"D.C. wasn't having issues, and they were on the air when it happened," the spokeswoman said.

"Situation Room" anchor Wolf Blitzer remained on the air a half-hour after 6 p.m. while the staff of "Lou Dobbs Tonight" scrambled to get on the air.

Many of the computers in Atlanta continued to have problems with the worm. The spokeswoman said the backup plan and fast action worked well, and it didn't affect much of CNN Headline News' operations, either. CNN Headline News is based in Atlanta, but it was able to do live news coverage -- including a car chase in California -- unhampered by the problems.

At ABC News, computers on the West and East coasts were hit. An ABC News spokesman downplayed the effects, saying that there were only minor inconveniences. He said some employees had to use typewriters to write scripts instead of the normal computer system.

By 7 p.m., all of CNN's programming was back on track. Portions of "Anderson Cooper 360" and "Paula Zahn Now" were devoted to the story.

Forensic investigation is still under way, but network security firm the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center reports that the infection is likely to be a variant of the Zotob worm. "Likely this is an isolated event, which became newsworthy because CNN got infected," the center's Chris Carboni said. "We do not see any new threats at this point."

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the infection is referred to as Worm_Rbot.CEQ, a designation that might change as more is learned.

"Microsoft's investigation into this malicious act is ongoing so that we can continue to understand how we can help support customers," she said. "We are working closely with our anti-virus partners and will assist law enforcement in its investigation."

A worm wreaks havoc like a virus but does so in a different way. Viruses spread by hitching a ride on an e-mail attachment or other file moving from one computer to another. They remain inert until someone clicks on them, at which point they spread themselves like an infection. Worms can replicate and move from one computer to another by themselves. This happens in several different ways but most often by sending themselves to every entry in the user's address book.

Zotob worms exploit a vulnerability in Windows Plug and Play capabilities, a weakness addressed by the information and security patches in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS05-039 on August 9. That document and further details are available free on the computer giant's official Web site.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Source: Yahoo! News

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