Computer Virus Hits Worcester ‘Telegram & Gazette’

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By: Joe Strupp

A computer virus that apparently caused problems for several companies on the East Coast disabled some e-mail, Internet and other computer operations for several hours Thursday at the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester, Mass., according to Publisher Bruce Gaultney. He said the virus, which may be the work of a disgruntled hacker, kept the paper from posting stories for several hours, shutdown e-mail use for numerous employees, and required some layout to be done on newsroom systems.

“There were problems posting on the Web, we have an e-mail newsletter that goes out at noon that went out late,” Gaultney said. “But it did not affect delivery of the paper, which was actually early.”

The virus, which the paper said was a version of the RINBOT or DELBOT virus, also impacted The Boston Globe slightly, according to Al Larkin, Globe executive vice president. Both papers are owned by The New York Times Company. Larkin said the only impact on his paper was a press run delay of a few minutes Thursday night, some slowed e-mail, and a small glitch in the classified advertising computer system. “It was a bigger problem in Worcester,” he said.

Gaultney said the virus actually first appeared Wednesday afternoon in the computers that run the paper’s inserters. “It was a production blip for an hour and we eventually inserted everything,” he explained.

But on Thursday, when employees began showing up after 8 a.m., the virus disabled some e-mail, crashed some computers and limited Internet connections. At one point, online editors had to work out of their homes in order to post stories. “Some people were affected, some people were not,” Gaultney said. “It was sporadic. But in some cases it was just having people move to another computer.”

Nancy Cahalen, the T&G director of marketing and new business development, said the Web site was still affected this morning as the posting of some stories was delayed as much as two hours. But by 10 a.m. all systems were back to normal, she said.

The T&G reported that the virus may have been the work of a hacker with a grudge against anti-virus software maker Symantec. It said Symantec “listed the virus as one of two threats on its Web site yesterday, noting that it was detected on Wednesday and that an update had been issued to protect against the virus yesterday. Symantec’s assessment of the virus was that it is easy to contain and that geographical distribution was low.”

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