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FBI blows Code Red all-clear

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The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) has issued a bulletin stating that "the Internet threat posed by Code Red when it changes from a scanning mode to an active distributed denial of service (DDoS) mode at 8pm (EDT) on August 19, 2001 is significantly reduced."

All right, that's correct in a sense, but it's still misleading. The threat to the Internet never existed in the first place, as we've made clear in increasingly satirical coverage of the doomsayers' prognostications from the outset.

What they ought to have said is that the imaginary threat to the Internet, which world and dog have been hooting about over the past eight weeks, now looks to them like the non-story we told you it was from day one.

Not so fast

However, there is still a significant threat here, though for some reason all the world's Net security experts, laid end-to-end, have been unable to reach it.

So we'll break it down for you one more time: Both versions of Code Red cause infected machines to scan for additional victims. By scanning, they're broadcasting their IPs to the world, letting us know that they're vulnerable to the .ida hole which the worm exploits.

This is a crucial tidbit because the .ida hole can give up system-level access to a vulnerable machine. Systems infected with Code Red One require that the attacker know how to exploit the hole, which is far from brain surgery but it does require some knowledge or at least a bit of reading. Those infected with Code Red Two have a little Trojan installed automatically, which lets even clueless newbies Telnet in without the slightest difficulty.

This is, always has been, and always will be the true threat of Code Red, and it's actually quite serious if you happen to have anything on your system which you'd prefer not to share with anonymous Web surfers.

It also happens to be the most under-reported aspect of it, because the media greatly prefer feeding on fantasies of world catastrophe over real nuts-and-bolts problems.

Our expectations of the media are already so low that we have trouble even caring about how poor their coverage was. But we can, and should, expect better from NIPC. If the new Director, Ron Dick, is going to revive the Center and improve its reputation, then he's got to ensure that it doesn't hype imaginary threats while turning a blind eye to less-than-sexy real ones. ®

Related Stories

The Code Red hype Hall of Shame
Son of Code Red is born
Code Red hysteria - $8.7bn in damage estimated
Code Red Tribulation is nigh, Steve Gibson warns
Washington mobilises against Code Red resurgence
Internet survives Code Red
IIS worm made to packet Whitehouse.gov

Related Links

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

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

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