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Jax Daily Record Friday, Sep. 21, 200112:00 PM EST

City struck by Nimda virus

by: Glenn Tschimpke

The computer virus that has been worming its way through the nation’s computers hit the City of Jacksonville this week, bogging down its websites and slowing it’s servers.

“Our ITD department has been working around the clock,” said the City’s chief information officer Libby Clapp. “It doesn’t affect personal computers. It affects web servers.”

“Nimda,” which is similar to the “Code Red” virus that made the rounds in July, primarily affects web servers and individuals using Microsoft Outlook or Outlook Express e-mail software on Windows 95, 98 and Millennium editions and also Microsoft’s Internet Information Services software.

Computers can be infected in various ways, ranging from opening a an e-mail attachment containing the Nimda virus or simply by visiting a webpage using a browser with no security enabled. In layman’s terms, Nimda makes Internet files bigger, which eventually overloads webservers, affecting all Internet and Intranet functions from surfing the web to printing. Once a server is infected, the virus aggressively searches for other systems without Nimda, confounding repair efforts.

“Yesterday afternoon [Tuesday], the intracity server was really slow. Eventually we got a denial of service,” said Clapp, who explained that most of the City’s 15 webservers were infected.

Clapp’s information technology department wrote a script to clean the infected files and patch the vulnerability in the software preventing reinfection. The City’s ITD department had srubbed the Nimda virus off its servers by Thursday morning but was still exploring methods of preventing reinfection in the future.

“The problem is, to do the clean up and the patch, you literally have to sit at each server,” she said adding that once a server is cleaned, the Nimda virus attempts to reinfect the unit from other servers.

While there is no evidence that Nimda causes permanent damage to files or computer hard drives, cleaning infected systems is labor intensive.

“The worst thing we’ve had was inconvenience,” said Clapp. “It cost me a lot of manhours.”

The virus comes on the heels of last Tuesday’s terrorist attacks on America, prompting some citizens to speculate on its origin.

“As it stands, we still see no evidence to link the virus with the terrorist attacks,” said FBI spokesperson Debra Weierman, adding that it was too soon to comment on the origin of Nimda.

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