Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/09/04/ealing_council_mystery_malware/

Conficker borks London council

Dirty USB shuts systems for days

By John Leyden

Posted in Security, 4th September 2009 12:23 GMT

Updated An Ealing council employee infected the UK local authority's IT systems with the Conficker-D worm after he plugged an infected USB into a work computer, causing tens of thousands of pounds in damages in the process.

The May incident took several days to clean-up and landed the west London council with a bill of £500,000 in lost revenue and repairs, The Guardian reports. Because IT systems were borked, the council was unable to process more than 1,800 parking tickets, at an estimated cost of £90,000, libraries lost out on £25,000 in fines and booking fees, council property rent went uncollected, and £14,000 was spent in overime sorting out delayed housing benefit claims.

The infection was eventually traced back to the unfortunate housing department worker's PC, the Press Association adds.

Ealing council defended the council's handling of the incident in a statement (below).

Like many other organisations, Ealing Council’s computer and telephone network was attacked by a sophisticated virus.

The council acted immediately to protect all data and ensure that essential frontline services could continue to operate. Costs to the council included urgent work to recover computer systems and prevent the virus from spreading.

The outbreak bears the hallmarks of the Conficker worm, which affected Manchester City Council in February to much the same effect. A detailed report on he incident, compiled by the council, blamed the infection on he use of a USB stick contaminated by Conficker-D. The worm exploited a Windows Autorun security weakness in Windows 2000 machines used by the council to upload itself and spread

Connections to remote sites were blocked during the clean-up operations. That left staff in outlying offices without telephony (because the council relies on a VoIP-based system). It also left staff in the main council office without voicemail for days for the same reason.

IT chiefs have put in a bid for a council-wide XP upgrade and extra end point and anti-virus defences at a potential cost of £600K. The upgrade would give the ability o lock down ports on PCs.

Jason Holloway, regional sales manager Northern Europe for flash disk vendor SanDisk, commented: "It underlines the fact that conventional USB flash drives have become a key method for spreading infections stealthily, as the US Army found last year."

"It also shows that virus scanning has to extend beyond the PC to all types of removable storage or - better still - that employees should be issued with company flash drives that include on-board antivirus scanning," he added. ®

Bootnote

Ealing is best known for the film studio that gave birth to the classic Ealing comedies of the late 40s and 50s, including Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Lavender Hill Mob. More recently the studios were brought back to life for an ill-advised remake of St Trinian's.