Slammer Worm Slams Internet

Though was not directly affected and received no reports of problems from its customers, much of the Internet has been crippled in the past day by the effects of the Slammer worm. A worm is a self-replicating virus which does not destroy files on a computer but, instead, consumes all available resources until the computer cannot function properly.

Instead of infecting e-mail, as we see all too often these days, the worm attacked Microsoft SQL Servers. To Microsoft's credit, they released a patch for this problem last summer. However, many less-than-vigilant system administrators have left their servers open to attack. Given the processing power and bandwidth available to these servers, the effect on the Internet could have been even worse.

At least 5 of the 13 root name servers were crippled. Domain name servers are responsible for translating user friendly names like "" into their numeric, computer friendly addresses. Though almost every ISP has its own domain name servers, the root name servers are responsible for coordinating all these servers. Without the root name servers, the Internet ceases to function in any meaningful way for most users.

All told, at least 39,000 servers were infected. Oddly enough, Bank of America said that at least 13,000 ATMs were also affected, preventing people from withdrawing money. That's certainly not an encouraging thought. Entire countries, such as South Korea and Japan, were taken offline, and the Finnish telephone service reported "problems." In fact, so much of the Internet was affected that desperate server administrators were having a hard time patching their infected systems.

Amusingly enough, Kevin Mitnick, probably the most infamous computer hacker (outside of Hollywood), was allowed to get back online for the first time in 8 years just 4 days prior to the advent of Slammer.

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