Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

2/12/2009
02:34 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Microsoft Offers $250,000 Bounty For Worm Authors

The company has formed a cybersecurity posse with technology companies, academic organizations, and Internet infrastructure firms to dismantle the Conficker/Downadup worm's infrastructure.

Beset by malicious worms after failing to convince enough server administrators to take its out-of-band Security Bulletin, MS08-067, seriously, Microsoft is taking computer security to the streets: It has formed a cybersecurity posse to dismantle the Conficker/Downadup worm's infrastructure and has offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the outbreak.

Microsoft warned last October that a vulnerability in its Server service could be exploited by a worm. Cybercriminals heard that warning and made the threat real, infecting as many as 9 million computers by mid-January. At that time, Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek estimated that between 25% and 30% of vulnerable systems remained unpatched.

And the problem continues more or less unabated today. Symantec said in the past five days it has seen an average of almost 500,000 infections per day with W32.Downadup.A and more than 1.7 million infections per day with W32.Downadup.B.

Jose Nazario, manager of security research for Arbor Networks, in a blog post on Thursday, called Conficker/Downadup a "savage Windows worm."

The total number of machines infected at any given time varies as a consequence of disinfection efforts. But rest assured that the number represents a very large botnet.

So it is that on Thursday, Microsoft announced a partnership with technology companies, academic organizations, and Internet infrastructure companies to fight the worm in the wild. Its partners in this worm hunt include ICANN, Neustar, VeriSign, CNNIC, Afilias, Public Internet Registry, Global Domains International, M1D Global, AOL, Symantec, F-Secure, ISC, researchers from Georgia Tech, Shadowserver Foundation, Arbor Networks, and Support Intelligence.

Together, the coalition is working to seize Internet domains associated with the worm.

"The best way to defeat potential botnets like Conficker/Downadup is by the security and domain name system communities working together," said Greg Rattray, ICANN's chief Internet security adviser, in a statement. "ICANN represents a community that's all about coordinating those kinds of efforts to keep the Internet globally secure and stable."

In a phone interview, Kevin Haley, director of security response at Symantec, said that there had been a lot of independent efforts to deal with the worm. The time was right, he said, to tackle it as a community.

According to Symantec, researchers have reverse-engineered the algorithm used to generate a daily list of 250 domains that the worm depends on to download updates. Armed with that knowledge, the coalition is taking control of the domains registered through coalition partners and using them to log and track infected systems. The group also is investigating domains overseen by registrars that aren't part of the coalition, though it's not clear how much leverage can be applied in such cases.

The worm won't be entirely stopped by such tactics; it also includes a peer-to-peer update mechanism. But it's a start.

Perhaps in recognition of the difficulty of getting help from registrars outside the coalition, particularly in countries with a tradition of tolerance for cybercrime, Microsoft said that residents of any country are eligible for its $250,000 reward. In many parts of the world, that kind of money will buy just about anything.

The last time the security community acted in unison like this was during the spring and summer of 2008, when several dozen companies and organizations came together to deal with the DNS vulnerability identified by security researcher Dan Kaminsky. But that was a bug fix rather than a worm-hunting posse.

Haley doesn't expect this sort of community policing of the Internet to happen more frequently, nor would he rule out further actions of this sort. "The groups that stepped in filled a void," he said. "As long as this is effective, we'll continue to look for opportunities."

This article was edited on 2/13 to correct the spelling of the Conficker/Downadup worm.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Mobile Banking Malware Up 50% in First Half of 2019
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/17/2020
Exploits Released for As-Yet Unpatched Critical Citrix Flaw
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/13/2020
Microsoft to Officially End Support for Windows 7, Server 2008
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/13/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-7227
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
Westermo MRD-315 1.7.3 and 1.7.4 devices have an information disclosure vulnerability that allows an authenticated remote attacker to retrieve the source code of different functions of the web application via requests that lack certain mandatory parameters. This affects ifaces-diag.asp, system.asp, ...
CVE-2019-15625
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A memory usage vulnerability exists in Trend Micro Password Manager 3.8 that could allow an attacker with access and permissions to the victim's memory processes to extract sensitive information.
CVE-2019-19696
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A RootCA vulnerability found in Trend Micro Password Manager for Windows and macOS exists where the localhost.key of RootCA.crt might be improperly accessed by an unauthorized party and could be used to create malicious self-signed SSL certificates, allowing an attacker to misdirect a user to phishi...
CVE-2019-19697
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
An arbitrary code execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2019 (v15) consumer family of products which could allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges and tamper with protected services by disabling or otherwise preventing them to start. An attacker must already have administr...
CVE-2019-20357
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A Persistent Arbitrary Code Execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2020 (v160 and 2019 (v15) consumer familiy of products which could potentially allow an attacker the ability to create a malicious program to escalate privileges and attain persistence on a vulnerable system.