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'Welchia worm' hits U.S. State Dept. network

From Elise Labott
CNN State Department Producer

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Computer Security
Computer Worm
State Department

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A computer worm named "Welchia" contaminated part of the U.S. State Department's computer network on Tuesday, according to a senior State Department official.

The worm did not affect the network's classified files.

At noon, the department shut down the network's unclassified portion for nine hours, in order to protect the system and eradicate the computer worm.

That shut-down affected the network's "Consular Check System" -- used to perform background and criminal checks on those seeking U.S. visas.

As a result, the U.S. government temporarily suspended its worldwide visa processing system for nine hours, and no visas were issued during that time.

The State Department computer network was fully operational by 9:00 p.m.

A computer worm is a program that propagates itself by attacking other machines and copying itself to them.

In mid-August the Blaster worm crippled hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide. The Blaster and its variants are self-replicating Internet worms that bore through a Windows security hole, harnessing computers to launch concerted data attacks via the Internet.

Suspected Blaster creator Jeffrey Lee Parson, 18, from Hopkins, Minnesota, pleaded not guilty to the charge of intentionally causing or attempting to cause damage to a computer. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.

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