Virus closes court for a few more days

February 9, 2009 4:57:58 PM PST
The municipal court will stay shut down for two more days as computer experts race against time to get a handle on a virus that's taken over hundreds of city computers. COURT VISITORS
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The city says it's not the same virus they originally suspected.

On a typical Monday, the city's municipal courtrooms are standing room only, but on Monday most courtrooms were uncharacteristically empty. It's the result of a computer virus that shut down the court docket for another day to the surprise of some.

Court appearances were already postponed for two days, but now officials say the computers would remain down for at least two more days to fully eradicate the virus.

"Everybody who had an assigned court date, those cases are automatically being reset and those folks are being notified by mail," said Gwendolyn Goins with the Houston municipal courts.

The city now says it was hit with the Virut virus which infected about 475 computers almost exclusively in the municipal court building.

"The city should look into how to protect the systems better from these viruses," said frustrated Houstonians Jaap Flink.

The city says it did have up to date anti-virus software, but this was a new variation of the virus just identified over the weekend. With the help of a small outside contractor, the city believes everything will be back online within a matter of days.

"We have a definite, well thought out plan to eradicate this virus," said Janis Benton with the city of Houston IT Department. "The issue will be another one tomorrow and we'll put on our armor, we'll go out there and do it again, but we'll get this one cleaned up."

The building is still open to pay tickets, but if you have a date to see a judge, the earliest that will happen is Thursday.

The city is investigating whether this was a random infection or if someone purposely targeted the computers.

The Virut Virus spreads through P2P file sharing and other network sharing. Once it's in a computer, it will try to infect other files on your PC. It can also open a back door into your system, which a hacker could use to gain access to any data stored on your computer.

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