Customs Service computers shut down

Updated A U.S. Customs computer system used for processing passengers arriving on international flights shut down for several hours Thursday, resulting in lengthy delays for arriving travelers.

At one point Miami International Airport had over 2,000 passengers waiting to clear immigration. The airport, along with airports in the New York area, were clearing passengers by hand. Los Angeles International Airport was able to use a backup computer system to clear passengers.

“Unfortunately with technology you have periods where things happen,’ said Zachary Mann, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman in southern Florida. The outage was caused by the failure of a central database in Virginia that lasted from about 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., according to Mann. He did not give any further details.

It wasn’t known at this time whether the computer system was hit by the Windows 2000 virus which has been making the rounds the last few days, but these incidents once again illustrate the importance of not using Windows for mission-critical tasks, as well as keeping systems up to date with security patches, when available.

To ensure that your Windows computer has received the latest security patches, turn on Automatic Updates, or visit Windows Update. And for everyone’s sake, including your own, start looking into alternatives such as Linux.

Update August 20: It appears that this disruption in service was caused by the Zotob virus, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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