WASHINGTON -- The virus-like Code Red II computer worm has spread this week to affect thousands of home and business computers nationwide. The worm disrupted some Associated Press services delivered by the Internet Wednesday.
The AP outage didn't affect transmission of AP's main news and photo services, which are delivered by satellite.
The worm is a program that scans rapidly for vulnerable computers to infect and overload. It can also quickly affect computers linked to a computer it initially targets.
Telecommunications company Qwest Communications International Inc. (Q) reported spotty outages for users of its high-speed Internet service nationwide. A Qwest spokesman said modems made by Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) were at fault. The Code Red worms can affect some Cisco hardware.
Home cable modem systems in Virginia and New York have also had slow or no service this week due to the worm.
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), whose software has the vulnerability that lets the Code Red worms attack, has itself been a victim. The company confirmed Wednesday that some computers running Hotmail -- the software giant's free e-mail service -- were infected by one of the worms.
The computer anti-virus company Symantec Corp. (SYMC) estimated that at least a thousand servers had been infected. The original Code Red worm, which appeared last month, infected about 250,000 computers at its peak. Code Red II also leaves a "backdoor" open that a hacker can use to take over the infected computer.
The worm delayed updates of The WIRE, the AP's news Web site. It also affected a photo service used by smaller newspapers and several specialized sites, including sites for graphics and census information.
Both versions of the Code Red worm attack only computers running Microsoft Windows NT or 2000 operating systems, with Internet Information Services installed. Microsoft offers a software patch to protect computers from infection.
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