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Concern raised over virus warnings

Code Red

By CNN's Sarah Sultoon

LONDON, England -- Recent years have seen a rash of warnings about e-mail viruses and computer worms.

The latest -- the "Code Red" worm -- came with grim predictions from the FBI, but has yet to cause significant disruption to the Internet.

Thousands of computers were infected in a matter of hours when Code Red made its online debut in July and concern remains that the worm could still do more damage on its second trip around the world's computer systems.

But some question whether concern about such viruses is more to do with hype than reality.

Critics want software makers, like Microsoft, to protect consumers from computer bugs. CNN's David George reports (August 1)

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Andy McCue, of Computing magazine in Britain, told CNN: "Anti-virus software companies seem bent on sending out daily updates about a virus set to cause little, if any, damage."

McCue said there was a sense of "panicking the public," adding: "It's a very bizarre situation indeed when the White House holds a press conference over a computer virus."

But a spokesman for Microsoft told CNN: "The news conference in the U.S. shows that both industry and governments recognise the threat posed by the Code Red virus and the importance of reaching out to the public to inform users they may be at at risk."

He said Microsoft were concerned that users had "a secure computing experience" and that "quick broad reaction is the best way to notify the public of potential risks on the Internet."

"We take security threats very seriously and as such are committed to reaching out to customers and users to advise them to take the necessary steps to assure the security of their own networks," the spokesman said.

More than a million people have already downloaded the patch from the Microsoft web site.

Aled Miles, managing director of Internet security company Symantec, said the virus had been over-hyped "to an extent," but the FBI had been "diligent" in reporting the threat it posed to the network.

"We need to alert people to the nature of the threat and what to do about it," he told CNN. "Symantec are not here to profit from computer bugs…We are in a position to help people."

But McCue warned the blaze of publicity surrounding every new computer bug was actually counter-productive for anti-virus software manufacturers.

Computer users become "apathetic," he said, and instead of buying into anti-virus software neglect to protect their networks at all.

"What you have is a "cry wolf" situation: users protect their PC's against harmless viruses and not against really dangerous ones," he told CNN.

• Microsoft Security Patch
• Code Red
• National Infrastructure Protection Center
• Panda Virus Insurance Software

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