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Sober worm stalls MSN, Hotmail

Microsoft says problem began earlier this week, but is unsure when it may be fixed.

The pesky Sober worm is to blame for disrupting e-mail traffic between Comcast account holders and users of Microsoft-based e-mail, Redmond said on Friday.

A variant of Sober known as Win32/Sober.Z@mm is pummeling servers at Hotmail and MSN with "unusually high mail load," causing delays in e-mail delivery to Hotmail and MSN customers, said Brooke Richardson, MSN's lead product manager. Richardson also indicated that Internet service providers besides Comcast may be having problems directing e-mail to Hotmail and MSN servers.

"We are working with Comcast and other ISPs to address (the) issues," Richardson said. "We're actively working to take the appropriate steps to remedy the situation as rapidly as possible. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience."

Blog reports say that some Comcast subscribers, when sending e-mail to a Hotmail or MSN account, have received an error message saying their message was not received. However, Microsoft says that all e-mails, while some may be delayed, are eventually getting through.

A Microsoft spokesperson other than Richardson said that the problem began earlier this week but would not give a timetable for when it might be fixed.

The Sober worm first appeared in 2003 and can hijack a Windows-based computer and force it to repeatedly send spam e-mails. The continuous e-mailing can lead to overloaded servers and reduced network performance. Last month, a variant of the Sober worm was spread as an attachment that claimed to be an old class photo sent by a schoolmate.