Chinese Virus Crises Mean Trouble for U.S.

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China is being hammered by viruses, and one security analysts says the trouble over there iscausing trouble for U.S. networks.

A survey conducted by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security shows that approximately 85percent of computers in the country have been infected with a virus this year. That numberis up 25 percent from 2001. And as many as a third of China's computers may have been hit bythe Sobig-F worm, which struck this past August.

But that's not just a problem for the Chinese. Chris Belthoff, a senior security analystwith Lynnfield, Mass.-based Sophos, Inc., an anti-virus company, says any major virusinfestation in a country as wired as China means that problem will travel to U.S. corporatenetworks.

''Computer viruses are like true biological viruses,'' says Belthoff. ''You may have astrong pocket of high infection somewhere in the world and the likelihood of it spread isreally high now because we're all so interconnected. If one area of the world isn't sosecurity aware, it will cause problems for the rest of the world, as well.

''In the end, it's going to make everybody suffer,'' he adds.

Belthoff also says that since Sobig-F hit China so hard, it most likely helped spread thevirus here in the U.S. and in Europe.

''We don't know for sure but it's certainly possible,'' says Belthoff. ''Remember, thenature of Sobig is that it's a mass-mailing worm, so if it infects a system it sends a copyout to every address on that system. And if you have a million machines infected in China,odds are you're going to have machines with U.S. or European addresses on them, and it willget here. We don't have hard evidence but certainly, the conclusion is that it contributedto the spread of something like Sobig.''

Belthoff also adds that China is being hit so hard because users there are still fairly newto the Internet and haven't been as educated about the hazards of viruses, worms, trojansand hoaxes.

''You think our problems are bad in this country and Europe, but viruses in China arerampant,'' he notes. ''The Chinese are just coming up to speed with the downside of theInternet. They have a high-tech corridor that makes Silicon Valley pale in comparison, buttheir growth rate for Internet access has just been exploding. The bulk of the peoplegetting on aren't Internet savvy yet.''

According to figures from the Chinese government, there are more than 68 million Web surfersthere.

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