From the Security Experts

April 13, 2009

Conficker Worm Attacks 700 Computers at University of Utah

By SIP Trunking Report Editor

Though computer experts quelled fears that the cyber-criminals behind the so-called “Conficker” worm would launch a massive April Fools’ Day attack, thousands of students, teachers, administers and healthcare professionals in Salt Lake City now are feeling the bite of the virus.

University of Utah officials say that since Thursday, the computer virus has infected more than 700 computers on campus, including at the school’s three hospitals, Associated Press reports here.
University health sciences spokesman Chris Nelson reportedly said the outbreak already has infiltrated computers at the hospitals, medical school, and colleges of nursing, pharmacy and health, according to the AP. No patient data or medical records have been compromised, Nelson reportedly told the wire service.
“That’s secured in a much deeper way because of the implications,” he reportedly said.
Yet the virus is attacking PCs and could be siphoning login and password data, credit card numbers and banking information.
Conficker surfaced in October 2008 and it targets the Microsoft Windows operating system – not Macs. The worm, which exploits vulnerabilities in the Windows Server, has been difficult for network operators and law enforcement to counter because it uses several advanced malware techniques.
Microsoft patched the Conficker-leveraged vulnerability, but the worm’s newest variant shuts down security services, blocks connections to security Web sites, downloads a Trojan, and connects to other infected computers through peer-to-peer technology.
The problem has become so annoying that even the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a Conficker detection tool for government agencies and state and local governments to counter the worm.
Experts say that now, with a slower economy that’s spurred record unemployment rates, is a particularly vulnerable time for computer security.
At the University of Utah, IT staff shut off Internet access Friday so they could isolate the Conficker virus.
One IT staff member, Mindy Tueller, reportedly said all faculty and students should take steps to make sure they are protected. The virus does not infect Macs.
“It can do a lot of bad things,” Tueller told the AP. “Every university member should be concerned about this if they’re using Windows-based devices.”

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Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Michael Dinan