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Internet Worm Cost MOD £10 Million

egov monitor reports that m ore than 4,000 Ministry of Defence computers were affected by a prolific internet worm which cost the Department £10 million in lost productivity.

In a reminder that even the most robust network security has a weakest link, the MoD suspects a single user caused the major incident by infecting a system using a floppy disk.



Restoring the MoD's computers to normal operation involved isolating and cleansing the worm from over 4,000 workstation across 30 sites. The entire operation took four weeks, the MoD reported.

Details have only just emerged of the incident, which took place last year and was the result of an infection by the Lovgate internet worm. Lovgate was first discovered in February 2003 and several new variants, with similar properties, have emerged over the past year - the latest appearing just over a week ago.

Lovgate generally first appears as an attachment to infected email messages and when activated, installs a Trojan horse program, which potentially allows remote access to the affected computer, leaving it vulnerable to attack. The worm also attempts to copy itself to all machines on a local area network and sends an email message notifying the virus author that the computer have been successfully infected.

Lord Bach, Government spokesperson for Defence in the House of Lords, played down the severity of the incident involving 4,000 MoD computers, which he said was not thought to have compromised national security. "There has been no recorded degradation to UK military readiness", the Minister said. "The systems affected by the Lovgate virus did not have a direct impact on operational networks."

Lord Bach also confirmed that there have been 71 incidents of MoD computers being infected by viruses and malicious programs in the last two years. Each incident, the Minister said, had typically required two to three days for systems to be restored to normal operation. He added: "Analysis of the incidents recorded indicates that over one-third involved standalone computers or training systems", suggesting that around two-third of the virus infections had spread across MoD networks.

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