CNN, ABC News and the New York Times have more in common than the fact that they are all major media companies. All three were reportedly been hit by a virus that caused system outages throughout the day on Tuesday.
A New York Times spokesperson told CBS News that its systems were affected by a virus during the morning but that problems have subsided. CNN reported on the air that its computers running Windows 2000 were automatically rebooting themselves.
There are also reports of virus or worm problems from other companies but spokespeople from three major anti-virus companies - Symantec, Trend Micro and Panda Software - told CBS News that these problems, at least as of early Tuesday evening, were not widespread. Trend Micro spokesperson David Perry said, "I would call this one too early to call."
It isn't 100 percent clear which worm or worms (or viruses) might be responsible for these problems, but security experts are focusing on variations of the Zotob worm that started circulating over the weekend. That worm exploits vulnerability in Microsoft Windows 2000 and some early versions of Windows XP that Microsoft disclosed last Tuesday.
The current batch of viruses and worms all have something in common, says Trend Micro spokesman David Perry, in an interview with CBS' Larry Magid. Click here to listen to the interview.
On its security Web site, Microsoft reported: "A remote code execution vulnerability exists in Plug and Play (PnP) that could allow an attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability to take complete control of the affected system. An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights."
Microsoft classifies this vulnerability as "critical." The software giant had issued a patch or fix that can be applied to all Windows 2000 and Windows XP systems. That patch is available from windowsupdate.microsoft.com.
Aside from applying this particular patch, it is important for Windows XP users to be sure they have installed Windows XP Service Pack 2. That software, which is available free from Microsoft.com/security, fixes numerous security problems with earlier versions of Windows.
Microsoft's monthly security fixes, including the one released last Tuesday, may be related to the current problems plaguing the news organizations and other companies.
Perry said that there are numerous other worms and viruses circulating at this time and that he can't pinpoint which virus might be causing the problems. However, he is certain that the problems Tuesday are related to the vulnerability that Microsoft announced last week.
Windows users are advised to apply the latest patches from Microsoft and be certain that their anti-virus software is up-to-date.
A syndicated technology columnist for nearly two decades, Larry Magid serves as on air Technology Analyst for CBS Radio News. His technology reports can be heard several times a week on the CBS Radio Network. Magid is the author of several books including "The Little PC Book."
By Larry Magid