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Manchester cops recover from Conficker

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Manchester police were once again able to run inquiries on the Police National Computer on Wednesday morning, after techies purged a Conficker worm infection from the force's network.

The malware infection left cops unable to run PNC checks on suspect persons or vehicles between Friday evening - when a decision to disconnect from the PNC database was taken in order to prevent the infection from spreading - and Wednesday morning, when links were restored. Links to court systems were also suspended while the Conficker outbreak was brought under control.

However, crime log systems were not affected by the outbreak. GMP bosses stressed that it had no effect on day to day operations or its service to the public, as GMP assistant chief constable Dave Thompson explained in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.

A team of experts has now removed the virus affecting GMP's IT over the weekend and all computer systems are now fully operational.

The virus, Conficker, was identified on Friday 29 January 2010.

It is not destructive and no data has been lost, but due to the speed it had spread... we temporarily cut off our access to the Police National Computer and other Criminal Justice systems to prevent further infection.

We had systems in place to ensure this did not affect our service to the communities of Greater Manchester.

It is still not clear where the virus has come from but we are investigating how this has happened and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again.

Security experts reckon the malware was most probably introduced onto the GMP network via an infected memory stick. However, this remains unconfirmed. Other victims of Conficker, which originally spread in November 2008 by taking advantage of a Windows vulnerability, have included the UK's Ministry of Defence, parliament and Manchester city Council. The council infection of February wound up costing taxpayers £1.5m in lost parking ticket revenue and security clean-up fees. ®

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