Computer virus hits Google

Last updated at 09:41 27 July 2004

A computer virus which affected popular internet search engine Google could start to subside today, according to cyber-security experts.

MyDoom.M caused "slowness" for a short period yesterday on the world's top search engine, attacked others including Lycos and Altavista, and is believed to have hit millions of emails.

Richard Archdeacon, director of technical services at security software company Symantec, said: "What we have seen is a rapid development of the MyDoom virus early yesterday afternoon UK time and it spread very rapidly - in fact, we tracked something like one million emails in the first six hours."

But he added there were defences already available to protect systems from the virus: "If people update their antivirus they will start to trap infected emails and restrict its spread.

"What we predict is it will start to subside during the course of today."

Mr Archdeacon added that yesterday's virus was the 12th version the company had identified since the first in January, as hackers or writers

amend existing ones.

He recommended users should take action to protect computers, including updating their antivirus firewalls, always making sure the system is "patched" and to use a free online security check to see whether their system is infected.

In a statement, Google said yesterday: "The Google search engine experienced slowness for a short period of time earlier today because of

the MyDoom virus, which flooded major search engines with automated searches.

"A small number of users and networks that have the MyDoom virus have been affected for a longer period of time.

"At no point was the Google website significantly impaired, and service for all users is expected to be restored shortly."

Maksym Schipka, senior anti-virus researcher at UK-based internet firm MessageLabs Ltd, explained that MyDoom was a "massive" virus.

It caused problems by bombarding the Lycos, Altavista, Yahoo, and Google search engines with requests until they could not cope.

Mr Schipka said: "Search engines are designed to deal with a high volume of requests from people around the world.

"However, every computer system has its limit, so on this particular occasion it could be the case that the virus reached the limit for Google."

He said he had heard reports of the virus causing problems with the search engine in Germany and the United States as well as in Britain.

But he said these reports had only been in relation to Google and not the

other targeted sites.

Problems with MyDoom had been "very widespread" as his own company had stopped around 26,000 copies of the virus in three hours yesterday.

Rough estimates suggested around 10 million e-mails with attachments containing the virus could have been sent.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Oxford-based anti-virus firm Sophos, said the MyDoom "worm" had been spread by email.

"When it infects one computer it not only looks for email addresses on that computer it looks for email addresses via search engines as well," he


"It is likely that Google were receiving a very large number of requests for information, more than they normally get, because the virus just kept on going to it and saying 'Give me more email addresses'."

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