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Volume 68, Issue 82, January 27, 2003


Web bug worms past UH

Cougar News Services

Although at least one campus server was down Sunday morning, M.D. Anderson Memorial Library workers said they canit seem to find any serious problems resulting from the weekend Internet "worm" that took advantage of a database vulnerability and disrupted electronic communications worldwide.

Hope Eugene/The Daily Cougar
Library workers said most of their computer systems avoided the havoc wreaked by a SQL Server "worm" that clogged network connections during the weekend.

"The network server was down when we came in Sunday, but weire not sure whether or not it was even associated with (the worm)," said Pranav Mehta, a computer science freshman who works for the libraryis information desk.

"After we got the server up and running again, it seemed fine. It has been much slower than usual and at times not responding at all. Weire not quite sure what the problem is," he said.

The worm used a flaw in a database software platform from Microsoft, called SQL Server, which is a fairly popular enterprise data system. Many businesses use SQL Server to manage their information processing, for both customer and in-house uses. According to most reports, the integrity of data on the SQL Server was not compromised; however, access to that data was slowed or totally prevented.

Personnel at the library information desk said they did not know if their servers ran SQL or if there was any vulnerability.

What library workers did know Sunday was that "our Internet access is working and our Web sites are working fine. No problems there," Mehta said.

Microsoft released a patch to prevent the vulnerability in July 2002 after a similar attack called "SQL Slammer" clogged Internet pipelines, but obviously, many businesses hadnit patched their software.

The result, reported CNetis, was chaos.

Unless people were running a SQL Server on their personal computers over the weekend, most home users went unhurt by the worm. However, many people may have experienced slow Internet connections and loss of e-mail access.

Bank of America reported it had temporarily lost service to more than 13,000 of its ATMs Saturday. The bank also said many Web site users were unable to gain access to their bank accounts.

The effects of the worm werenit geographically limited to the United States. South Koreais largest ISP reported that nearly all of its customers lost their connections during the attack. Chinese computer users saw sites freeze and a dramatic slowdown in download speeds, as the wormis effects hit the Internet's nameservers -- the computers that translate Web addresses into the numerical Internet Protocol that points to data servers, reported.

PCs that use the Microsoft SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine, such as Visual Studio .Net and Office XP Developer Edition, are also vulnerable, reported.

Microsoft officials are urging companies to patch their software if they havenit done so already, and to update often.

Officials from UHis IT department were not available for comment Sunday.

"If there was something bad, if there was some big problem, then theyid probably be here. And theyire not," Mehta said of the IT department.

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