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Podcast: PCs used to attack government Web sites at risk of data loss

Symantec confirms that PCs infected with the malware responsible for attacks against South Korean and U.S. government sites contain code that could erase content from the infected PCs' hard drive.

Symantec's Kevin Haley says the malicious software responsible for attacking government and other sites in the U.S. and South Korea contains code that could turn against host PCs, erasing data and making the machines unbootable.

The attacks, which have been going on since July 4, have affected Web sites operated by several U.S. and South Korean government agencies including the U.S. Treasury Department and White House and the South Korean Ministry of Defense. Some company sites, including The Washington Post, have also been affected.

Like other distributed denial of service attacks, the actual PCs that are doing the attack are part of a "botnet." They have been infected with malicious software designed to carry out the attack. And, as CNET's Elinor Mills reported earlier, that same software could wipe out data on infected PCs.

Listen to Symantec's Kevin Haley discuss the risk: