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Wired to publish Slammer code

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Wired is to publish the code for SQL Slammer, the worm which caused havoc to Internet operations worldwide this January.

The magazine's July issue, will explain how the SQL Slammer worm spread like wildfire, knocking South Korean ISPs offline and rendering some bank automatic teller machines temporarily inoperable.

The article, entitled Slammed! An inside view of the worm that crashed the Internet in 15 minutes, will include the underlying software code for Slammer, but not information on how to plant the worm, Reuters reports.

"The thing to note here is that the people who are in a position to wreak havoc on the Internet don't have to read about it on Wired," Blaise Zerega, managing editor, told the news agency.

"But the people who are in a position to prevent it from happening do read Wired. Our thinking was to shine a light on the problems and issue a wake-up call."

Anti-virus experts argue that the decision to publish source code for Slammer will do little to help security professionals but could make it easier for misguided or malicious individuals to produce variants of the worm.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos Anti-Virus, noted that the two most prolific viruses on the Net at present - Bugbear-B and Sobig-C - are variants of previously released viruses.

"We haven't seen the article but it seems that Wired planed to produce the source code and a cook book for the Slammer worm," Cluley told us. "We don't think this is useful and it could even be dangerous because there are always scumbags out there who might take this and create other worms."

VXers could undoubtedly find the source code for the worm by searching online but "why put it on a plate for them or in an article with a nicely proportioned font in Wired?" Cluley says.

According to Alex Shipp of MessageLabs, Wired has "crossed the line" before by publishing information which was potentially helpful to wannabe virus writers.

In March 2001, the magazine published an article on the prolific Anna Kournikova worm which contained a link to a Web site for the VBS Worm Generator toolkit used to generate the worm.

"I don't think they need to publish the code for Slammer to get their message across," Shipp said.

In February this year, The Register reported the fear of the UK security expert who discovered the flaw which was exploited by the Slammer worm that it does more good than harm to publish proof of concept code.

In a posting to BugTraq, David Litchfield of NGSSoftware expressed concerns that his proof of concept code was used as a template by unknown vandals in creating the destructive Slammer worm. He concludes that, at worst, his proof of concept code only saved the creators of Slammer some time.

Publishing the source code of the worm carries a much greater risk. Litchfield argues that it is right to publish proof of concept code after a long a careful examination of the issues involved.

How much scrutinising has Wired done? Still, the July issue will no doubt sell like hot cakes. And that's a good thing, right? ®

Related Stories

SQL worm slams the Net
ATMs, ISPs hit by Slammer worm spread
Slammer: Why security benefits from proof of concept code
Bugbear sequel spells fresh misery for Windows users
VX writers release sequel to infamous Sobig worm

Reducing the cost and complexity of web vulnerability management

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