All users of Intel Pentium processors with an Internet connection are at risk from a bug that could crash the processors and cause system freeze-ups. Intel admitted last week the existence of a bug consisting of four lines of code that could bring systems to a halt if introduced via the web or by a malicious hacker. The so-called FO bug, reported by Internet news groups, differs from a virus in that it does not attack software or hardware systems. It is simply executable code that cannot be calculated by the processor and thus freezes the system. The FO bug is able to attack Pentiums because of an error in the processor. According to Intel, the problem does not effect the Pentium Pro or the Pentium II. Chris Hogg, market development manager at Intel, said the code does not cause data loss or system damage, but warned that "companies who use the Internet should look at their on-line policies carefully". Firewalls will only protect against the bug if they are set to prevent users downloading executables from the Internet. Anti-virus software provides no protection as the code does not act like a virus. "If a company has a policy that allows employees to download executable applications from the Internet, that should be changed," Hogg warned. "People need to be careful." PC Week found the code easily accessible on an Internet news group. The danger is that the code could be disguised or embedded in another piece of software. Lynley Gwennap, editor-in-chief and publisher of Microprocessor Report in the US, confirmed that "ordinary (licensed) software is not affected by this errata". He added: "If you are running valid software only, you will not be affected by this. The danger is on the Internet, or perhaps with individuals introducing the code into another computer via a remote system." Intel is working on a fix for the bug, which, said Hogg, should be available this week. For information go to www.intel.com.
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