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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon temporarily shut down public access to its Web sites Monday to make sure they are protected against a new computer threat known as the “Code Red” worm.

“Most (Department of Defense) Web sites will not be accessible by the public until this worm no longer poses any threat to DOD networks,” spokeswoman Lt. Col. Catherine Abbott said.

Pentagon computer security experts were instructed to install repair programs, commonly known as patches, to make their computers impenetrable to the worm before making the sites viewable again to the public.

The sites remained visible to military personnel who accessed them from their work computers, Abbott said.

Some Defense Web sites, such as the DefenseLink hub, remained operational Monday evening. But others with the .mil address did not respond.

The worm, similar to a computer virus, has already infected at least 225,000 computers. It defaces Web sites with the words “Hacked by Chinese.” It has spread more quickly than any worm in recent history.

The White House took precautions against it Thursday evening, changing its numerical Internet address to dodge the attack.

The FBI’s National Infrastructure Protection Center issued a warning, calling the worm a significant threat that could “degrade services running on the Internet.”

Because Code Red spread so quickly, security companies have not been able to figure out who wrote and released it.

Code Red exploits a flaw discovered last month in Microsoft software used on Internet servers. While a software patch was made available to correct the flaw, many computers have not been updated.

Vulnerable computers are those running the server software with the Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 or Windows 2000 operating system.

Only computers set to use the English language will have their Web pages defaced.

Since

the worm surfaced, another variant has been found that does not deface Web pages but spreads even more quickly.

Code Red also can damage smaller networks by affecting the Internet routers used for data traffic control.

Since the worm targets Internet servers, mostly used by businesses, few individual computer users have been affected.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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