Feeds

How a virus crashed Homeland Security

Border chaos from Zotob outbreak 'avoidable'

Top three mobile application threats

A computer virus that infected computers connecting the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) US-VISIT border screening system last year first passed through the backbone network of the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement bureau, according to documents obtained by Wired, following a year long legal fight.

The papers - obtained under the Freedom of Information Act - highlight the DHS's ineffective response to the attack. Rather than protecting 1,300 US-VISIT workstations as a priority, it concentrated on patching desktop computers. The DHS resisted attempts to release documents on the crash, as it turns out, more to avoid public embarrassment than out of concerns sensitive information on its systems might be disclosed.

The Zotob worm used using a vulnerability in Windows 2000's Plug and Play service to attack vulnerable machines. Microsoft released a patch for the flaw on 9 August, but many organisations have failed to apply a fix before Moroccan virus writers1 released a worm on 13 August. The DHS delayed patching US-VISIT workstations running Windows 2000 Professional over concerns that more testing was needed because of the amount of peripherals they supported and concentrated its efforts on patching desktop machines even as reports began to flood in about widespread infection of US-VISIT workstations.

The infection led to long queues at airports, as border controls processed entrants manually or, in some cases, using backup computers. It took more than a day to bring the problem under a semblance of control. By the early hours of 19 August, a day after the outbreak flared up, 72 per cent of the workstations were patched. But if the update was applied on workstations at the same time it was applied to desktop PCs - 17 August - widespread problems could have been avoided.

Wired has a full run-down of the outbreak, based on internal reports made within the DHS before and after the incident, which serves as a case history on mistakes to avoid in patch management and dealing with virus outbreaks. ®

1 Moroccan Farid Essebar (AKA Diabl0) was jailed for perpetrating the Zotob outrage back in September 2006. As well as the DHS other victims of the worm included CNN, ABC, the Financial Times and the New York Times.

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Heartbleed exploit, inoculation, both released
File under 'this is going to hurt you more than it hurts me'
Canadian taxman says hundreds pierced by Heartbleed SSL skewer
900 social insurance numbers nicked, says revenue watchman
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
Burnt out on patches this month? Oracle's got 104 MORE fixes for you
Mass patch for issues across its software catalog
Reddit users discover iOS malware threat
'Unflod Baby Panda' looks to snatch Apple IDs
Oracle working on at least 13 Heartbleed fixes
Big Red's cloud is safe and Oracle Linux 6 has been patched, but Java has some issues
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the 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.