Worm disables State intranet

The State Department yesterday experienced a nine-hour outage of its unclassified intranet system, known as OpenNet Plus, as a result of an infection by the Welchia worm, a department spokesman said.

The incident severed State's unclassified communications by e-mail between Washington and its overseas locations, according to Consular Affairs Bureau spokesman Stuart Patt.

It also brought down the department's Consular Lookout and Support system and links to the related Tipoff database, which diplomats use to check visa applicants against a list of terrorists, Patt said.

CLASS has about 15 million names of visa applicants, and Tipoff records about 110,000 individuals suspected of terrorist activities or ties.

'The name-check system called CLASS is just one of the systems that was closed off from noon to 9 p.m. yesterday Washington time,' Patt said.

He added that issuing visas was halted during the system outage. Patt said officials did not think the attack was specifically targeted at State. 'They will be doing a lot of checking.'

The Welchia worm exploits vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows. It did not affect State's classified networks and systems, which are not connected to its unclassified intranet.

(Posted 11:31 a.m., revised 12:27 p.m.)

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