Feeds

Witty attacks your firewall and destroys your data

If you can read this, you're probably all right

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A new worm that, ironically, makes sport of Win-32 systems defended by BlackIce and RealSecure firewall products from Internet Security Systems (ISS) began circulating Saturday.

The worm, dubbed 'witty,' is memory-resident only and propagates via UDP port 4000, and possibly others. While occupied with reproducing itself, it overwrites data on the local hard disk(s), and can render a machine un-bootable if it corrupts the master boot record or partition table, or file allocation tables.

The worm is exceptionally vicious by current standards and implies the presence of a highly motivated spoil-sport, such as a disgtruntled former employee, an envious competitor, or a monumentally dissatisfied customer. Or it could just be a cool bit of retro coding.

By day's end, little witty had infected an estimated 50,000 systems, but because the worm is so destructive, it is unlikely to propagate at such a rate for very long. It also exploits a vulnerability in a limited number of BlackIce and RealSecure editions, further limiting its reach. No doubt all this will be fixed in its next edition.

"Witty" is so named because of its creator's incredibly humourous message in packets sent,

(^.^......insert.witty.message.here .......(^.^)

The worm generates a random IP address and sends itself via UDP to a random destination port. After 20,000 attempts, it writes 65K of data to the local disk(s). It then rinses and repeats, ad nauseum. Because the cycle is so brief, a great deal of damage can be done before an infected machine exhibits signs of corruption. Re-booting will eliminate the worm, but the system may already be damaged enough to fail.

Witty exploits a buffer overflow vulnerability in an ISS ICQ parser called 'PAM' (Protocol Analysis Module). This should not be confused with the better-known Pluggable Authentication Module PAM, which is not in danger.

It is possible to recover data from an un-bootable disk, but many home users are unlikely to know how to do this, and will be forced to re-install their systems, sacrificing their data. Perhaps a class action lawsuit will be in order.

Power users and pros will likely be able to recover at least a decent part of a witty-damaged disk. Of course, any data overwritten will be permanently un-recoverable, and the worm can do considerable harm because it attacks the disk repeatedly until it's caught. Because the worm is memory-resident and never writes itself to disk, the fine products of many renowned AV vendors may fail to detect it.

Recovering data from an un-bootable disk is time-consuming and never foolproof, but power users can employ a DOS utility like DiskEdit, which allows for browsing, copying and pasting; or better, the Linux utility DD_Rescue, which will copy a disk volume to another disk without balking at I/O errors.

Affected systems

According to ISS, the following systems are currently known to be vulnerable:
BlackICE Agent for Server 3.6 ebz, ecd, ece, ecf
BlackICE PC Protection 3.6 cbz, ccd, ccf
BlackICE Server Protection 3.6 cbz, ccd, ccf
RealSecure Network 7.0, XPU 22.4 and 22.10
RealSecure Server Sensor 7.0 XPU 22.4 and 22.10
RealSecure Desktop 7.0 ebf, ebj, ebk, ebl
RealSecure Desktop 3.6 ebz, ecd, ece, ecf
RealSecure Guard 3.6 ebz, ecd, ece, ecf
RealSecure Sentry 3.6 ebz, ecd, ece, ecf

Patches are available from the ISS downloads page. ®

Thomas C Greene is the author of Computer Security for the Home and Small Office, a complete guide to online anonymity, system hardening, encryption, and data hygiene for Windows and Linux, available at discount in the USA, and soon in the UK.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Webcam hacker pervs in MASS HOME INVASION
You thought you were all alone? Nope – change your password, says ICO
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.