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METI sets up phone contact point to handle Blaster crisis.

TOKYO, Aug. 14 Kyodo

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said Thursday it will set up Friday a phone contact point at the ministry to deal with inquiries about the ''Blaster'' computer virus.

The ministry also said it will start disseminating ''emergency information'' on the virus via the ministry's Web site Saturday.

Meanwhile, the telecom ministry said it has asked Internet service providers and their industry body, the Telecom Services Association, to spread information on how to remove the virus from infected computers by sending e-mails to subscribers or posting relevant data on their Web sites.

The Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications asked Microsoft Co., the Japan unit of Microsoft Corp., to take appropriate measures to forestall the virus as it is widely expected to attack the servers run by Microsoft Corp. from Saturday.

In a rare move, METI issued an advisory warning Wednesday against the virus, which takes advantage of a security hole in Microsoft's Windows operating systems and spreads to vulnerable computers.

The number of phone inquiries received by METI, most of them from individuals, eclipsed 250 Thursday afternoon.

An official at the ministry's computer security department said the new virus appears to be spreading ''at the quickest-ever pace, exceeding that of the Nimda virus that wreaked havoc in September 2001.''

The surge in the number of phone inquiries ''has stemmed from the fact that the number of Japanese users of broadband Internet access services has eclipsed 10 million,'' the official said.

METI plans to set up a task force of experts at the Information-Technology Promotion Agency, Japan, one of its affiliates, to analyze the vulnerability of various computer software to viruses, and another group to disseminate the results.

In a related development, industry analysts said that damage from the new virus could motivate the national and local governments to adopt the Linux operating system or others rather than Windows in building Web-based public service networks.

Tokyo's Setagaya Ward put its resident registry computer network off-line Tuesday evening to shield the registry system, part of the national network known as Juki Net, from the virus.

The ward office is checking all its computers and plans to resume operations of Juki Net next week.

Once the virus gets into a vulnerable computer, it reportedly downloads codes from a previously infected computer, which enables it to propagate.

Although Blaster has not been found on Juki Net, the ward office decided to take precautions as its computers run on Windows.

The virus has intruded into about 100 of the roughly 2,250 personal computers (PCs) owned by the ward office, ward officials said.

But a Microsoft official urged large users of Windows operating systems not to defect to the Linux camp.

''Should someone release viruses that attack the vulnerable points of Linux, who would take responsibility for distributing vaccine software?'' the official said.

IBM Japan Ltd., the Japan unit of International Business Machines Corp., and Fujitsu Ltd. have been marketing computer systems that use Linux, in addition to those that use Windows.

An official at a major vaccine manufacturer said, ''Hackers have taken aim at Windows because a successful assault on Windows could have global repercussions.''

''Occasional successful disruptions of Windows-based machines do not mean that Windows in particular has many weak points,'' the official said.

Should Linux come to account for the largest share of the global operating system market, hackers would scramble to create viruses programmed to attack any vulnerability in Linux, the official said.
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Title Annotation:Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry
Publication:Japan Computer Industry Scan
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Aug 18, 2003
Words:582
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