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Windows NT systems targeted by new ‘network’ virus

Remote Explorer claims first victim: MCI WorldCom

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What appears to be the world's first network virus, already dubbed Remote Explorer, has hit telecoms giant MCI WorldCom's network of Windows NT machines. The virus' effects were detected on Thursday, but the cause was only identified yesterday, by Network Associates (NA), developer of the McAfee anti-virus tool. While The Register would never accept the cynical suggestion that virus are being conjoured up by the creators of the antidote applications as a way of boosting business, NA was very quick to describe Remote Explorer as heralding "a new era" in virus technology with the potential to "do more damage to a business than any virus we've ever seen", claim that it was the first real instance of "cyberterrorism", and suggest worried network administrators rush over to its Web site and download the trial version of McAfee and the detector patch. In a statement verging on the admirational, NA said Remote Explorer's programmers had a knowledge of operating systems, networks and business operations that went far beyond the capabilities of most virus creators. MCI WorldCom understandably wanted to play down such hyperbole, and a spokesman simply said that the infection had been quickly contained and "had no impact on our customers or operations". Microsoft's Windows NT group product manager, Jason Garms, was also quick to play down the virus' power, saying it's not much different from other viruses beyond its ability to move rapidly round a network. Remote Explorer -- for once an Explorer that isn't a Microsoft product -- itself differs from more commonplace viruses by attacking not specific machines but the network. According to NA's boffins, it only affects Intel-based machines (and presumably Intel-compatible PCs) running Windows NT in Administrator mode. Once there, it obtains the security information it needs to spread itself around the network. NA reckons it can also travel via Windows 95/98, NetWare and Unix file servers running on Intel hardware As it moves around, Remote Explorer compresses random program files and encrypts data. However, both methods are known, and the NA fix will restore both types of file to their original state, said a Microsoft spokesman. ®

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