In an ironic twist for an agency focused on monitoring diseases and warning the public about them, the CDC fell victim to a computer virus attack, which it is now trying to quarantine.
The government agency was hacked into on Thursday, Feb. 1, and the attacker left a virus behind on the CDC's Web site. The virus, which they have yet to identify, appears to only have infected the area of the Web site that is home to the agency's podcasts, according to Tom Skinner, spokesman for the CDC. Skinner adds that the agency's IT investigators have found no indication that the virus spread to other areas of the Web site or to the agency's computer network. He says sensitive data wasn't affected.
However, he says there was a two-hour period between when the virus was detected on the site and when the site was taken offline. In that two-hour window, "a few hundred" people went to the podcast section of the Web site, potentially infecting their own computers. Skinner says they're not yet sure if site visitors were infected, but they're still investigating it.
He also says he's not sure if those visitors will be contacted and warned of the possible infection.
The podcast section of the Web site was taken down last Thursday and remains offline. Skinner says he's not sure how soon it will be back up.
The CDC launched the podcast section of its Web site in July 2006 and has reportedly had several hundred thousand visitors. The center's podcasts offer information on scientific research and health-related issues.