RealNews

Computer virus hits US visa system

‘Welchia’ detected in one facility. The State Department’s electronic system for checking every visa applicant for terrorist or criminal history failed worldwide late yesterday because of a computer virus, leaving the US government unable to issue visas. The virus crippled the department’s Consular Lookout and Support System, known as CLASS, which contains more than 12.8 million records from the FBI, State Department, and US immigration, drug-enforcement, and intelligence agencies. Among the names are those of at least 78,000 suspected terrorists. In an internal message sent late yesterday to embassies and consular offices worldwide, officials cautioned that “CLASS is down due to a virus found in the system.” There was no backup system immediately available, and officials could not predict how long the outage might last. Such an outage would represent the most serious disruption in years to US government computers from an Internet infection. State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore said the agency experienced some computer problems but could not confirm the visa-checking system was affected. “We did have some computer problems,” she said. “They’re working on it.” Every visa applicant is checked against the names in the CLASS database. The State Department’s automated systems are designed not even to print a visa until such a check is completed. Full Story

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