Feeds

Superworm seizes 9m PCs, 'stunned' researchers say

Downadup goes up and up

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Downadup, the superworm that attacks a patched vulnerability in Microsoft Windows, is making exponential gains if estimates from researchers at F-Secure are accurate. They show 6.5 million new infections in the past four days, bringing the total number of machines it has compromised to almost 9 million.

The astronomical growth stunned some researchers, although others cautioned the numbers could be inflated since the counting of infected computers is by no means an exact science. Most agreed F-Secure's estimate was certainly plausible and if it proved to be correct, represented a major development in the world of cyberthreats.

"This thing has gotten way out of hand," said Paul Ferguson, a security researcher for anti-virus provider Trend Micro who has spent the past several weeks tracking the worm's progress. "It seems pretty spectacular to me that there could be that much growth."

A confluence of factors are responsible for the growth of Downadup, which also goes by the name Conficker.

For one, the underlying vulnerability allows for self-replicating attacks in the 2000, XP, and Server 2003 versions of Windows. And for another, the malware authors have cleverly designed exploits that spread via flash and network drives, online trojans, and social engineering features that allow it to spread like wildfire within a local network once a single machine is compromised.

Another important contribution to the outbreak seems to be the legions of administrators and users of Windows machines who have failed to heed repeated admonitions to update. Despite Microsoft releasing an emergency patch for the vulnerability almost three months ago, nearly one in three Windows machines have yet to apply it, according to research from security provider Qualys.

Some Skepticism

Not all security watchers are convinced there really are 9 million machines infected by Downadup. Paul Royal, chief scientist with anti-botnet company Damballa, said his researchers have counted only about 500,000 unique IP addresses connecting to Downadup's master control server. That would imply an average of 18 infected machines behind each address, a number he says is unlikely.

The skepticism prompted F-Secure researchers to explain its methodology for the mind-boggling number. By infiltrating Downadup's control channel and analyzing logs of machines that connected, researchers discovered a counter believed to show the number of other PCs the compromised machine has infected.

After creating a script that totaled all those numbers together, F-Secure deduced 8.97 million machines have been compromised, up from 2.4 million on Tuesday.

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

More from The Register

next story
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.