August 16, 2005

U.S. media outlets report computer outages

SEATTLE -- An unidentified software virus was being blamed for computer system outages on Tuesday at ABC News, CNN and The New York Times, as computer security companies tried to pin down the cause of the disruption.

CNN, breaking into regular programming, reported on air that personal computers running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 operating system at the cable news network were affected by a worm that caused them to restart repeatedly.

Over the last week, Microsoft and security companies warned of a new worm, called "Zotob," that could allow an attacker to access PCs by exploiting a recently discovered flaw in Windows 2000.

But security software company McAfee Inc. and Microsoft said that they did not see any heightened activity from Zotob or any indication that the worm caused outages at U.S. media outlets on Tuesday.

The New York Times said it had faced internal systems computer outages earlier in the day on Tuesday.

"We just don't have a lot of details," said Catherine Mathis, spokeswoman for the New York Times Co. "It was earlier today. We're fully operational and we don't expect (the outage) to affect the production of the paper."

Officials at ABC News also reported system outages.

"We haven't seen any huge uptick or impact today," said a spokeswoman with Microsoft's security unit, "a fairly small number of customers are being impacted."

McAfee, the world's second largest security software maker, said that it is investigating whether there was a new worm or virus circulating on the Internet.

"Globally, it doesn't look like there is anything going on," said Lysa Myers, an engineer at McAfee's anti-virus emergency response group,

Myers said that the company had no indication that any Internet virus was wreaking havoc around the world and that apparent problems at television networks like CNN could be something more specific to their networks.

CNN , a division of Time Warner Inc., said that computer systems at General Electric Co., United Parcel Service Inc. and Caterpillar Inc. were affected by system outages as well.

A GE spokesman said that there appeared to be no problems with GE's internal network, while UPS said that only a small number of its computers were affected by a worm or system outage.

"There is no impact whatsoever on operations, customer-facing computer systems, service or delivery," said UPS spokesman Norman Black.

Caterpillar officials were not immediately available for comment.

ABC is a division of Walt Disney Co.