Fairfax Media fights Conficker worm

Fairfax rolls out SAP

Fairfax Media is fighting a Conficker infection that it says is causing intermittent problems around all New Zealand divisions.

The virus attacks network accounts with administrator privileges, in an attempt to create further “mischief”, a note on the Fairfax Media intranet says. Conficker, also known as Downadup, is a worm that is causing disruption on corporate networks worldwide.

“The complete payload of this virus is not fully known, however many of the problems we have been experiencing have been caused by the virus ‘locking’ the account of users, administrators and system accounts throughout the group. This then means that many of the systems we use do not have valid network permissions to complete some of their tasks,” the note says.

“We believe we have managed to identify almost all of the infected systems, and should now see significant reduction in the number of virus related incidents for this particular incident, however it again shows us how vigilant we need to be bringing data in to our network from the outside world, and the challenges we face, in IT maintaining the integrity of our data.”

Conficker appears to be claiming more corporate victims in New Zealand. Computerworld has previously reported extensively on the Conficker infection at the Ministry of Health. Whitireia Polytechnic is another recent victim.

Fairfax Media's group operations manager Nigel Bailey today confirmed to Computerworld the virus is conficker. He says the infection likely came from a USB stick. Bailey says the infection has not been hard to clean up "We did not find it hard — it was a manual process for us which added time," he says. The removal was completed internally using Microsoft and Symantec tools and solutions, he says.

Also this week, Fairfax Media announced plans to introduce an SAP accounts receivable system for its New Zealand operations, cutting current headcount by 14 in the process.

Fairfax says it is consulting with affected staff and aiming to minimise redundancies through attrition and redeployment.

The new system will bring together disparate records and increase efficiency, Fairfax CEO Joan Withers says. She says it will deliver faster processing of invoices and a "more user friendly experience" for accounts staff.

The 12-month rollout offers an opportunity to manage the staff reductions through attrition, she says.

The SAP system will replace disparate legacy systems.

Fairfax is also a user of Oracle’s PeopleSoft software for its human resources and payroll functions. Asked if the SAP choice signalled a broader rollout or replacement of PeopleSoft, CFO Randall Burt said: “I think you could read a little bit into that”.

“If SAP does succeed PeopleSoft it would typically be some years away – not overnight,” he says.

The new software will enable advertising and circulation customers to have one single account with Fairfax and a single path for credit approvals and management.

"Alongside this change, we are also proposing improvements to several finance related back office functions, including payment processing, credit control, and account and contract management."

Fairfax plans eventually to set up a national payment processing team in Wellington and two credit control hubs, managing day-to-day activity, in Christchurch and Auckland.

The system is expected to be in place across the group by the middle of 2010.

— Computerworld is part of Fairfax Media

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