Worm crashes Coastguard computers

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The Independent Online

Computers at the Coastguard Agency were among millions of PCs hit yesterday by a new worm that spreads over the internet.

The Sasser worm, which exploits a flaw in Microsoft's Windows software, disrupted work at the Marine and Coastguard Agency, forcing staff to use pencil and paper to find ships and locate distress calls on maps.

The worm, which appeared over the weekend, began spreading rapidly yesterday as people returned from the bank holiday and brought laptops that had been infected while surfing the internet, or turned on vulnerable machines inside offices.

Analysts believe Sasser could be as damaging as the Blaster worm that spread worldwide last August, infecting an estimated eight million computers and costing businesses billions of pounds.

Henry Purbrick, watch assistant at the Falmouth Coastguard, said the worm meant they could not use their computer system. "Luckily we can still use telephones and radios. It just means we have to rely on paper and pens," he said.

Anyone with an infected machine should visit Microsoft's website to download a software "patch" to fix their system.