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IIS worm made to packet Whitehouse.gov

As eEye Security descends into ambulance chasing

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Just when you thought you were finally safe from cyberwar with China, some dumb bastard has to go and create the 'Code Red' worm, targeting the White House Web site with distributed packet floods, and defacing IIS servers along the way with the inane motto "Hacked by Chinese!"

The worm attacks what's now called the .ida vulnerability, an unchecked buffer in the IIS Indexing Service ISAPI filter, which, if exploited, can yield system-level access to an intruder. The vulnerability was first reported by eEye Digital Security on 18 June; an attack script was released on 21 June by a Japanese fellow called HighSpeed Junkie; and the worm first appeared on 13 July.

After compromising a victim, the worm scans for other vulnerable IIS machines to infect. The scan is random, but the randomizing seed never changes, so the same IPs will get hit again and again from subsequently infected boxes. Bad news for sleepy admins; but good news overall, as this checks the worm's spread somewhat.

It would not be surprising to find that the author's IP is one of those repeatedly contacted. This would make it a no-brainer for him or her to keep track of newly-infected systems.

One of the more curious features of the worm is that some of the infected systems (we think those using other than US English versions of Win-NT, but the eEye bulletin is confusing) will periodically send 100k to port 80 at whitehouse.gov.

Chase that ambulance

One of the more curious features of the eEye bulletin is a surprisingly defensive commentary extolling the virtues of full disclosure. We're in favor of full disclosure too; but the tone here suggests real moral insecurity:

"An example of why full disclosure is so important would be this worm itself. Chances are this worm would have not been discovered if we had not fully disclosed details about the .ida vulnerability, allowing Intrusion Detection System vendors to create signatures for the .ida buffer overflow attack."

Of course, chances are the worm would never have been created, either, but that's a separate issue.

"The first instances of anyone learning anything useful about this worm was via Intrusion Detection Systems that had signatures based on our .ida vulnerability research which would not have been there if not for full disclosure. The computer underground continues to find vulnerabilities everyday. If full disclosure goes away, then the general security community is left in the dark, and therefore so are administrators," eEye warns.

And here comes the 'thank God for us' bit:

"More and more we are seeing an increase in worms attacking the Internet. There have been about 2 or 3 worms in as many months. Worms force computer security to become a global issue. With the rise of the Internet, not only do you have to worry about securing your own systems, you must also be careful of your neighbors' systems. For instance with this worm even if you have done everything right (installed the .ida patch etc...) your network connection could still be taken down because of the amount of data flooding you from all of the 'other guys' who hadn't applied patches and were infected by this worm. It is important to not only maintain your own security but make sure that other people you come in contact with secure their sites."

It reeks of ambulance chasing. It reeks of searching for vulnerabilities, and publicizing them, to sell security products. In other words, 'please recommend eEye's SecureIIS product to everyone you know so that you'll be safe.' The idiots who haven't yet bought it are ruining the Internet for everyone else.

In any event, the relevant IIS patches are available for Win-NT and 2K, except for W2K Datacenter Server, whose users need to pester their OEMs. The hole will be bunged in Win-XP before it's released, Microsoft says. ®

Related Links

The relevant MS security bulletin
The Win-NT 4.0 patch
The Win-2K Pro and Advanced Server patch

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

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