Virus compromises police database

The Greater Manchester Police service (GMP) has been afflicted with the Conficker virus which could give criminals access to the Police National Computer (PNC). As a result, its systems have been uncoupled and quarantined to avoid the spread of the virus and to prevent any data loss occurring.

According to V3, the infection was detected last week and since the systems have been brought offline by PNC managers, officers from the affected area have been forced to rely on other regional police services in order to perform common tasks including vehicle checks.

Dave Thompson, who is Assistant Chief Constable at the GMP, said in an interview with the BBC that although the infection was being taken seriously, the virus had not been used to steal or delete data and the damage caused was believed to be fairly limited.

Mr Thompson also said that security systems were in place to prevent any central infection impacting on the service provided by the police, although the source of the virus has yet to be officially identified.

According to experts, it is possible for the Conficker virus to be proliferated over USB portable storage devices, with any system into which a host device is plugged becoming easily infected if autorun is enabled.

The Conficker virus is two years old and with five of its variants patched by Microsoft in the past, there is a bounty available to anyone who can discover the original coder who created the malicious software.

USB sticks are becoming an ever greater problem for those in charge of data protection in public and private organisations and some are taking steps which will block network access to all USB ports on all networked computers. This is intended to prevent infections from the outside and to minimise the chance of personal information getting lost on portable storage devices.

The authorities in Manchester have had previous encounters with USB-borne viruses, when the Conficker virus infected the local council’s systems and the resulting chaos cost the tax payer 1.5 million.

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