YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Army computers in South Korea largely have been unaffected by an Internet worm rapidly spreading through commercial computer systems, officials said Thursday.

The “MSBlaster” worm, which temporarily cripples computers using Microsoft Windows operating systems, already has affected more than 10,000 personal and government computers in South Korea, government officials here have said.

But an existing series of computer security measures has spared most of the sprawling U.S. Army networks in the country, said Jack Miller, chief of the Taegu-based Regional Computer Emergency Response Team, Korea.

The RCERT Korea, as it is known, is one of six Army “defensive” computer centers assigned to protect networks against Internet viruses and hacker attacks. The headquarters is in Fort Belvoir, Va.

“From what I have seen and heard, MSBlaster is not a very malicious worm, just an extremely fast-spreading one,” Miller said.

“In nine out of 10 cases, the infected user will have his computer temporarily stop functioning and it seems to go away once they turn off and restart. It’s called a ‘denial of service attack.’”

Computer experts in the United States have said the MSBlaster worm might have a more nefarious purpose: At a prearranged time, each infected computer could bombard a Microsoft Windows Web site with data messages, knocking it offline.

South Korea, one of the world’s most-wired countries, inevitably is hit hard by computer viruses and Internet worms, according to the Ministry of Information and Communication.

Earlier this year, the “Slammer” worm knocked out Internet service for millions of South Korean computer users.

Part of the problem with MSBlaster, officials say, is that it is designed to block access to a Microsoft Web site that offers a “patch” to repair the damage.

According to The Associated Press, computer security experts in Europe said the infections peaked on Wednesday, hitting computers that run the Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows NT and Server 2003 software.

According to military computer experts in South Korea, home and work computers can be protected in several ways from viruses and worms. The easiest is to download and frequently update virus protection programs.

Many such programs are free for use and copying, Miller said. He encouraged computer users to copy virus programs from their work computers and install them on their home computers.

“A lot of the problems we have start with home computers,” he said.

And though the MSBlaster worm hasn’t hit Army computers in South Korea hard, there probably will be some problems.

“A few are going to crop up here and there because people will get careless,” Miller said. “But we’re doing well overall.”

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