BOSTON - Microsoft Corp warned PC users that the Flame virus that attacked systems across the Middle East infects computers by exploiting a flaw in the Windows operating system.

The company released software to protect against infections exploiting the previously undisclosed flaw.

Mike Reavey, a senior director with Microsoft's Security Response Center, said in a blog post that he feared that other hackers might be able to copy the technique to launch more widespread attacks with other types of viruses.

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