A group in China released a program in late July that lets hackers exploit a critical flaw in Microsoft software and take over a victim's computer over the internet. The program, released nine days after Microsoft Corp. warned of the flaw, has turned an embarrassment for the company and inconvenience for customers into a near-emergency.

The program, posted on the group's web site, takes advantage of a vulnerability in nearly all versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system, including Windows Server 2003, touted as Microsoft's safest ever.

The Redmond, Wash., software

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