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Code Red worm shows up in Asia

By staff and wires

SEOUL, South Korea -- The infamous Code Red computer worm has appeared in Asia, with the South Korean government reporting an outbreak in servers at a cluster of public offices.

The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs said the Code Red worm froze a computer network linking government offices in Taejon city, about 140 km (84 miles) south of Seoul.

The computer worm was detected on Monday, a ministry official told Reuters, and the outbreak forced the shutdown of some systems to prevent the virus spreading further.

"The problem is Code Red usually has a 10-day incubation period, so we have asked other offices via e-mail to use a patch to secure servers and prevent the virus from spreading," the official added.

He said he could not determine whether the worm was Code Red II, a more voracious variant discovered on Saturday.

Voracious virus

Code Red attacks computer servers that run on Microsoft's Windows NT and 2000 operating systems as well as its IIS server software and then spreads to other machines.

Code Red II creates a path for outsiders to enter and tamper with websites, allowing them access to classified data such as credit card numbers.

The first outbreak in Asia saw offices of the Korea Forestry Service, Cultural Properties Administration and Industry Property Office affected.

The ministry official said Internet links between the offices and government offices in Seoul were severed to try to prevent the worm from spreading.

Meanwhile, reports have surfaced of the Code Red II worm showing up on Chinese computers.

Reuters reported on Tuesday, citing an anonymous security expert, that the Code Red II virus had infected Chinese computers despite claims last week that Chinese-language versions of the vulnerable operating systems were immune to the virus.

"The situation is beginning to move more quickly and spread more widely this week," said a technical support manager at Beijing Rising Technology Corp, a virus protection company.

Chinese infection

The source said Beijing Rising knew of several dozen Chinese computers that had been attacked by the Code Red II worm, including computers at universities, government agencies and large Chinese companies.

"It's the second member of what appears to be a family," said the manager at Rising, who declined to be identified.

Last week some security experts said Chinese-language versions of the Microsoft operating systems were immune to the worm, but the Rising expert said it could infect computers using Chinese-language versions.

Reports in Indian newspapers last week said the Code Red worm had been traced to a computer at the University of Foshan in China's southern province of Guangdong.

But a laboratory technician who answered the phone at the university's computer department on Tuesday said he was surprised to learn of the reports because the school had been on vacation since July 6 and was being refurbished.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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