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E-Mail Worm Strikes Corporate PCs

Net service providers, others work to block Sobig.F. Another invader hits Air Canada.

August 20, 2003|From Times Wire Services

AOL Time Warner Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Starbucks Corp. were among the companies scrambling Tuesday to block a new mass e-mail worm dubbed Sobig.F from wrecking their networks.

The worm, which appeared to be spreading rapidly, attempts to download files from the Internet and potentially can leave computers vulnerable to further attack. It is at least the fourth major new Internet worm to hit computers worldwide in the last week.

The worm spreads through computer systems via e-mail and comes with a variety of subject lines including "Your details," "Thank you!," "Your application" and "Wicked screensaver."

Sobig.F is a variant of an earlier worm and was first noticed Monday. Variants have been circulating since January.

Sobig.F is occurring even as computer operators are trying to fix damage caused by Blaster, a worm that exploited a weakness in Microsoft Corp.'s Windows software and infected 1.4 million systems last week.

Another worm, called Code Red, infected 359,000 systems in less than 14 hours one day in 2001.

Air Canada went through a check-in nightmare Tuesday after yet another computer worm infected its reservations systems, prompting the airline to warn its passengers of delays and cancellations. The worm, dubbed White Hat, hit as the airline still was reeling from a worldwide shutdown of its operations Friday after the massive power blackout in Ontario and the U.S. Northeast.

As for the Sobig.F worm, it has sent out millions of e-mails around the world and is particularly affecting home users, said Jimmy Kuo, a security fellow at security software company Network Associates Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif.

AOL, operator of the world's largest Internet service provider, has been automatically scanning and blocking infected e-mails, said Nicholas Graham, a company spokesman. He said the worm hasn't slowed AOL's network.

Verizon was no different.

"Our filters have seen it and have been functionally removing it from incoming e-mails," said Mark Marchand, a Verizon spokesman. He said the worm had a "minimal" effect on the company's computer network.

Starbucks "had a few incidents" related to the worm, said Audrey Lincoff, the director of media relations at Seattle-based Starbucks. She declined to be more specific.

Even companies that weren't hit by Sobig.F, such as Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin Corp., the world's largest defense contractor, decided to take precautions.

Lockheed on Monday shut down its so-called virtual private network, the dial-up connection by which employees can get secure access to Lockheed's computer network from remote locations, for about 12 hours, said spokeswoman Elaine Hinsdale.

Bloomberg News was used in compiling this report.

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