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Showing posts from August, 2005

W32.Zotob.K and TFTP port 69/udp

Two years and dozens of worm variants after the W32.Blaster.worm worm infected millions of machines using an easy to block TFTP callback mechanism, the latest variant of the Zotob family is using the same technique. The W32.Zotob.K worm may spread on some networks more successfully than previous variants, all of which attempt to exploit the MS05-039 buffer overflow defect in Windows systems. Using this technique, a worm author trades complexity in one area of the worm design (the overall transport logic) for simplicity in another (the code which exploits the buffer overflow). Previous variants have connected to the victim computer on port 139 or port 445, where it hopes to find an unpatched software agent listening. Then, a packet is sent containing some things that the victim expects to receive, and some things it does not -- all must be arranged very precisely. This package includes the message which trips the buffer overflow, and the code the attacker seeks to run on the remot…

Reimage? Sez Who? The Fedz, that's who. And Microsoft.

A number of systems administrators have asked me for some nice authoritative PDF and official looking references to support them in discussions with management regarding recovery strategies (see IRC Botnets: The Needle and The Damage Done). Senior managers are not particularly impressed by blogs, you know. Here are a few that I had handy. Note that this guidance is not universal. AntiVirus vendors, in particular, commonly claim that cleanup tools are sufficient recovery in most cases, although lately even a few of them have become more cautious in their claims for their cleanup tools. If you find any other nicely authoritative references on this topic, let me know and I'll add them to this page. The first reference actually surprised me. I was working on a large team in a gargantuan organization, and a client asked a Microsoft Security Consultant if Microsoft recommended re-imaging from worm attacks, and if they in fact practiced this type of recovery for internal proble…

IRC botnets: The Needle and The Damage Done

Since August 15th, many organizations have been struggling to recover from the onslaught of the various exploiting the Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) buffer overflow exploit. Those unfortunate enough to see large numbers of systems hit by one or more worm variants face the usual challenge of recovering the systems. Microsoft and the AntiVirus Vendors are eager to help you recover your systems, with several offering their own custom cleanup tool to eradicate the worms. Victims of this crop of would do well to heed the long standing recommendation of information security experts. Recover your contaminated systems by re-imaging them from pristine media, particularly if they were able to contact the outside world even for a few minutes using an control channel. It's often difficult for non-technical management to weigh the risks involved with any given outbreak. This week I've heard this sentiment expressed almost exactly the same way from…

Threat Levels: Low, Medium or High? Red, Orange or Yellow?

Microsoft and the AntiVirus Vendors (perhaps a decent name for a band) tend to think of "threat" in terms of the number of machines infected, how many are vulnerable, and certain other primitive measures of damage done by a worm, such as "does it delete data files". By those measures, this worm appears benign. In fact this current crop of worms is far more harmful than some of the most famous worms from a couple years ago. Rather than hitting many millions of machines, these worms hit only a few hundred thousand or a few million perhaps (infestations inside large corporate and government networks are hard to count from the outside, hiding many infected systems.) When the worms are released, they do the most damage in the first few hours. They immediately search the hard drives for interesting files and upload them to remote servers. This damage is done, to the tune of thousands of files and hundreds of MB of data, before you learn which port to block at y…

IRC Botnets: Sysyphus Part II - containment

Many organizations are struggling with containment of and invasions this week, as a result of the vulnerability and myriad variant worms exploiting it (Zotob, Spybot, Esbot, Rxbot, bobax, et. al.) Most of these organizations have patch management, firewalls, IDS and AntiVirus systems in place as part of a layered defense. They may suffer dozens or hundreds of compromised systems regardless of these efforts at prevention. The current crop of worms are nearly all bots -- remote controlled software agents that call out of your network to a remote server, looking for instructions from an attacker. Containing the outbreaks can dramatically reduce the cost of the later cleanup. If you have a large network, with a large population of vulnerable machines, and you don't have a containment strategy in place, consider the following tactics. Network Partitioning Consider partitioning your internal network on the ports used by the worm to spread. This worm seems t…

MS05-039 Zotob - and more to come

Zotob reared its slimy head this morning. It exploits a defect in Windows systems (UPnP MS05-039) for which a patch has been available less than a week. Zotob is undoubtedly the first of what will be many Week Zero Worms exploiting this defect -- not quite a Zero Day worm, but close enough to wreck havoc. Every time this happens, the internet discussion forums are flooded with snide comments from smug systems administrators, along these paraphrased lines: "I patched all 652 of my systems this week before the worm hit. Any organization being hit by this worm is incompetent." Well, probably not. These well-run one-man shops do impress with their ability to deploy patches quickly and offer some hope for the rest of the universe. However, the prima donna types that make it happen generally don't really understand the magnitude of the problem in a large corporation with, say, 50,000 TCP/IP devices, mostly running Windows. It's not just a matter of patching 77 time…