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Conficker Worm Infects Network of Waikato DHB

The notorious Conficker has crippled the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) of New Zealand computer network. It has forced the board to shutdown its 3000 PCs and affected 5,600 staff members.

Describing how the incident occurred, Mary-Ann Gill, Waikato DHB Spokeswoman, stated that DHB technicians were working on the computers to upgrade them when the trouble began to show up, as reported by Nzherald on December 17, 2009.

Gill said that around 2 AM the technicians noticed problems with the PCs. Within two hours, they realized that a PC virus had infiltrated the entire system.

She added that the board sought Microsoft's help, thus the DHB technicians along with Microsoft had been working overnight.

They identified the virus as Conficker, a highly prolific malware worldwide. It has infected about 7 Million PCs across the world. These infected PCs have been used to build a massive botnet, which its creators control. The virus serves as the potential medium for downloading malicious software such as rogue antivirus programs on contaminated PCs. It also harvests passwords and other information that are then used to contaminate more PCs.

The New York Times reports that the Conficker botnet currently controls several million PCs spread across over 200 countries.

Gill said the virus re-establishes itself with the same speed as with fixing it because of its great strength.

She further added that almost 90 staff members of the IT department had been engaged throughout the day to eliminate the virus.

With the collapse of the computer network, Waikato simply couldn't e-mail appointment details to patients. Further, the DHB had to ask patients not to come to the hospital unless the situation was serious.

Online security company Symantec states that users can be in the greatest danger of being contaminated by Conficker if their PCs weren't configured to take Microsoft's updates and patches. It can also be dangerous if users' computers don't have updated antivirus software, as reported by PCWorld on December 17, 2009.

Nevertheless, during 2006-09, Waikato DHB had expended immensely for its systems and regularly made applications up-to-date, said Gill.

Moreover, the shutdown might prompt for a password system that was even stronger, Gill stated.

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