|Coastguards in the UK have been hit by the Sasser worm|
According to media reports, the Sasser worm has struck UK's entire network of coastguard control rooms.
The Sasser worm is said to have hit all 19 of the coastguard control centres around the UK and the service's headquarters, bringing IT systems to a halt and forcing officers to resort to pen and paper.
According to Joanne Groenenberg, a spokeswoman of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), the public have not been endangered, but computer mapping facilities are not working and staff are having to use paper maps.
Command and control systems, and lifesaving equipment, are said to be unaffected by the worm, which infects unprotected computers via the internet.
Liverpool coastguard, which provides rescue services across much of Britain's west coast from Colwyn Bay to Mull of Kintyre, said the worm was causing major operational problems.
"Anyone who thinks viruses are childish pranks which do no real harm should bear the UK Coastguard's experiences in mind," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "The day is long overdue when virus writers grew up and realised the very real harm they can cause by distributing their viruses. The Sasser worm is causing criminal damage around the world - and the perpetrators deserve to be punished."
The MCA's Coastguard Rescue Co-ordination Centres operate around the clock and use the latest communications technology to respond to any incidents at the coast or at sea.
The security vulnerability exploited by the Sasser worm was first patched by Microsoft on 13 April 2004 in Microsoft Security Bulletin MS04-011.
Sophos recommends that every IT manager responsible for security should consider subscribing to vulnerability mailing lists such as that operated by Microsoft at www.microsoft.com/technet/security/bulletin/notify.mspx .
Home users of Microsoft Windows can visit windowsupdate.microsoft.com to have their systems scanned for critical Microsoft security vulnerabilities.
Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.