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If you’re a road warrior — someone who routinely uses and relies upon a computer to work while traveling — you’re probably aware of the current “worm” problem. What you’re probably not aware of, however, is that you may face a number of speed bumps and roadblocks as a result. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, you’ve heard something about the worms — computer programs that infect computers — that are making their way through the Internet and wreaking havoc on computers across the country. You may not know what the worms are, how to get them or how to get rid of them. All you do know, either from listening to the news or those responsible for technology in your company, is that you don’t want them. And as if the entire situation wasn’t confusing enough already, there are now what are called good worms making their way through the Internet. These good worms take advantage of the same security flaws as the bad worms. But unlike the bad worms, the good worms attempt to fix the problem. Or at least that’s what the security experts believe the good worms do. For road warriors, however, the problem runs much deeper. As I write this, I’m sitting in a hotel waiting to establish a network connection to my e-mail. This should be easy enough, given that the hotel has high-speed Internet connections in each room. But while my Web browser can load Web pages in fractions of a second, my computer cannot establish a secure connection established over the Internet to my office. Nor can my computer download e-mail from a backup e-mail account that I use. Phone calls to various technical support personnel yield no joy. From other points in the world — just about anywhere outside of my hotel — my firm’s network is accessible. So is my backup e-mail account. At long last, the solution hits me like a slap in the face. After phone calls to my firm’s computer technician, the technical support number for the secure-connection software and, finally, to the hotel’s high-speed Internet service provider, I finally learn that the problem is the hotel’s Internet service provider. In an effort to avoid having the current batch of worms infect additional computers, the provider is filtering not just Internet traffic, but just about everything except what’s needed for basic Web browsing. I can’t make my secure connection. As is often the case with computers, understanding the problem does not equate to solving the problem. While the solution becomes obvious — the provider should stop filtering my Internet traffic — actually getting the provider to make that change is another matter entirely. After a series of arguments, I was assured that the changes would be made immediately. Unfortunately, “immediately” equated to another eight hours. Before you think this is an isolated problem, think again. Until a few days ago, I could wake up in the morning and use Microsoft Outlook to access my office e-mail from home. Then came the worms, and suddenly, Outlook could not connect. A quick phone call to my high-speed Internet provider revealed what I had suspected. It seems that the current batch of worms exploit a port — similar to a television channel that each service (e-mail, Web browsing, etc.) on the Internet operates — upon which Outlook relies to operate remotely. My high-speed Internet provider had shut down the port needed for Outlook to prevent worms from spreading. Over the last week, discussions with security professionals have revealed the same thing. Security advisories circulated over the Internet recommend the shutting down or filtering of particular ports the worms will use to propagate. Unfortunately, the hotel’s Internet service provider had overzealously filtered traffic to the Internet, including the ports necessary for establishing a secure connection. As of the writing of this article, I still only have partial access, but at least that’s enough to handle basic communications. If you’re a road warrior like me, brace yourself for frustration. Even if you have multiple e-mail accounts and multiple means of accessing your office from the road, you may find yourself in the same situation of having no ability to communicate with your office. Or you may find yourself spending large amounts of time browsing the Web while waiting on hold to speak with a technical support representative who understands enough to fix the problem. Samuel Lewis is a partner at Feldman Gale & Weber (www.fgwlaw.com) in Miami where he practices computer and Internet law and intellectual property law. He is also an adjunct professor of law at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

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