Major companies are at risk from a crippling new computer bug which targets their antivirus software, it was claimed on Thursday night.
Already, a division of the world's biggest media corporation, Time Warner, has been hit.
Experts believe a disgruntled hacker with a grudge against software firm Symantec is behind the new trojan virus, a version of the 'Rinbot' bug.
The US company designs anti-virus packages for major corporations.
The 'worm' works by exploiting security loopholes in anti-virus software.
It then spreads through the network by manipulating 'weak' spots such as simple passwords.
Once the virus is embedded, it takes over many other computers forming a 'zombie' network.
Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant with IT security firm Sophos, said: 'Traditionally hackers always went after Microsoft's anti-virus programs. But now they're targeting other programs such as Symantec's.'
He added: 'Without you knowing it, hackers will use your computer for a variety of purposes like sending out spam, or distributing denial of service attacks, or even blackmailing other websites.'
Mr Cluley said the strain appeared to be hitting networks that run Microsoft Windows operating system.
He added: 'We do know that it has hit CNN Time Warner in the US. That's the most high-profile place but we are aware of it hitting elsewhere.'
Symantec said its Norton products were not affected and it had released new protection against the virus yesterday morning.
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