Feeds

DoD mailing lists left wide open

Virus spoofing defences backfire

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

SANS - Survey on application security programs

A semblance of order has been restored to US Department of Defence mailing lists after an automated attempt to inject the Klez virus onto two lists indirectly led to a message storm.

Although the infectious attachment was stripped out, the message text (which as is common with Klez came from a spoofed email address) made its way onto the two supposedly moderated lists (including the DoD news list) on Friday morning (February 14). The original infected message likely originated from the machine of an infected list subscriber, rather than through a directed attack.

In any case, attempts by technicians to prevent messages using spoofed Defense Technology Information Center (DTIC) headers propagating onto the list made matters far worse. A side effect of the changes they made left the list more - not less - insecure.

"We didn't realize that the effect of the settings we had changed would leave the subscription list open, giving anyone the ability to post messages to the entire list," Terry Davis, manager of the Public Web Program in the Office of the Secretary of Defense told Federal Computer Week. "And we definitely underestimated how much people like to talk."

Indeed.

Folowing the duff changes, pandemonium broke out as numerous people sent replies to the erroneous message and spam messages that were now being broadcast through the list.

Reg reader Andy Foster, who subscribes to the DoD news list, provides a first-hand account.

"Spammers quickly jumped on board and started spamming via the list. It appears that the DPS IT guys finally fixed it Saturday night after 5:30 pm EST. The original message bearing the ROCK.EXE [Klez] worm that started this mess was first sent out at 11:58 am on Friday - nearly 36 hours!"

"Is that some kind of new world record for regaining control?"

Foster notes that the people who responded one way, or another, to spam messages are now likely on spammers' databases.

Davis, speaking to Federal Computer Week, acknowledges that "people who replied to the entire list exposed themselves to thousands of other people".

Those people include spammers, we'd add.

That seems to be the main fallout from the cock-up and its worth repeating that, unlike similar incidents with other organisations in the past, a virus was NOT sent onto the list and the mailing list was not taken over. The list was just left wide open. ®

Staff running the list have apologised for any inconvenience in a message we reproduce below:

From: DOD NEWS LIST [mailto:DODNEWS-L@DTIC.MIL]On Behalf Of Davis, Terry
W., A&M IRM
Sent: Sunday, February 16, 2003 8:18 PM
To: DODNEWS-L@DTIC.MIL
Subject: Unauthorized Postings

NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Dear Subscribers,

While working to strengthen our ability to prevent unauthorized postings on our mailing lists, we briefly had two of them in a mode that allowed subscribers to post messages. The lists are now set to prevent postings other than those we generate. I apologize for the inconvenience and confusion that this may have caused you. Please be assured that all possible diligence is exercised to prevent such events.

Sincerely,
Terry Davis
Manager, OSD Public Web Program
-- News Releases: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/releases.html
-- DoD News: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/dodnews.html
-- Subscribe/Unsubscribe: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/dodnews.html#e-mail
-- Today in DoD: http://www.defenselink.mil/today

Related Stories

bet365 sends Avril Lavigne worm to punters
Kaspersky mailing list hijacked!
FBI cyber-brainiacs infect themselves with SirCam

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Samsung Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner hacked in just 4 DAYS
Sammy's newbie cooked slower than iPhone, also costs more to build
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
Snowden-inspired crypto-email service Lavaboom launches
German service pays tribute to Lavabit
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
NSA denies it knew about and USED Heartbleed encryption flaw for TWO YEARS
Agency forgets it exists to protect communications, not just spy on them
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a defence for mobile apps
In this whitepaper learn the various considerations for defending mobile applications; from the mobile application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies needed to properly assess mobile applications risk.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.