The New York Times hit by Nimda worm variant

The pesky Nimda.E worm that began circulating this week struck The New York Times on Tuesday, leaving the newspaper's editorial staff unable to access the Internet for about four hours.

Toby Usnik, a spokesman for the newspaper, today confirmed the worm attack and said software patches have since been applied to prevent future problems. Usnik wouldn't comment "for security reasons" on what operating systems, software or patches were used. He also declined to say how many workers were affected by the Internet disruption, which lasted from about 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Once the problem was discovered, the IT staff rerouted part of its network to restore service, he said.

The paper's Web site was unaffected by the worm and was still accessible to viewers, he said.

Usnik said it was the first time the newspaper has ever been struck by a denial-of-service attack caused by a worm or virus.

The Nimda.E worm is a variant of the original Nimda.A worm that struck computers around the globe last month.

The worm spreads itself as an e-mail attachment, via server-to-server Web traffic, through shared hard disks on networks and by automatically downloading infected files to users who browse Web pages hosted on infected servers. The worm sends itself over and over, eventually overloading the servers of its target, knocking them out of commission until repairs are made.

The worm exploits flaws in Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer Web browser and in the company's Internet Information Server Web server platform. Patches for both applications are available online.

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