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.


02:47 PM
Connect Directly

New Free Scanners Available For Detecting Conficker Worm Infections

Researchers exploit worm's weakness and build network scanner technology that finds and cleans up victims' machines

Researchers spent the weekend building a proof-of-concept set of tools to kill the Conficker worm after discovering something telling about the malware: It changes the way Windows machines appear on the network.

The work of HoneyNet Project researchers Felix Leder and Tillmann Werner, along with Dan Kaminsky, director of penetration testing for IOActive, led to today's release of an open-source Conficker network-scanning tool, as well as several commercial-grade scanning tools that automatically detect Conficker-infected machines -- including a plug-in to Tenable Security's Nessus tool, a software-as-a-service tool from Qualys, as well as tools from McAfee/Foundstone, Nmap, and nCircle. These vendors and organizations, all members of the Conficker Working Group, built their tools around the researchers' PoC.

The researchers found that you can basically "ask" a machine if it's infected by Conficker, and it will tell you. "Conficker-infected machines respond differently to a specific request than clean ones. The response contains a distinctive error code," Leder and Werner said in an email interview.

This network "view" of the exploit is relatively unique. "You can sweep the entire network, even the portions you don't have administrative control over, during lunch," says IOActive's Kaminsky, who helped the vendors integrate Leder and Warner's PoC into their enterprise-friendly products. "Network scanning as an exploit-detection mechanism is very rare and quite appreciated here."

The new Conficker tools are timely: PCs infected with the third version of the worm, Conficker.C, are scheduled to "phone home" and receive their updates on April Fool's Day. Although security researchers aren't expecting major problems that day, the tools can catch any infections of any Conficker worm version. (To read about some hands-on experience with the new tools, check out this Evil Bytes blog post).

Joe Stewart, senior malware researcher for SecureWorks, says the Conficker.C domains are being closely monitored by researchers. And Conficker can already get updates via its peer-to-peer architecture, so it technically doesn't have to wait until April 1.

Conficker has been hard to kill because it can update infected machines, making it tough to spot them. The malware has spread to millions of machines through open network shares, weak passwords, and removable storage devices, such as USB sticks. The resulting botnet-like Conficker network so far hasn't acted like a botnet by waging spam runs or other attacks, but researchers are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Because Conficker changes the way Windows responds to some network path requests, the HoneyNet Project scanner technology can detect the worm's presence by sending a legitimate request (in the form of a remote procedure call) to the machine, which triggers it to respond.

"We suggest [organizations] scan for and disinfect Conficker machines as soon as possible, regardless of speculation about what will happen on April 1," Leder and Werner say.

Meanwhile, the HoneyNet researchers have just published a research paper with their in-depth look at Conficker as part of the organization's "Know Your Enemy" series of white papers.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
US Formally Attributes SolarWinds Attack to Russian Intelligence Agency
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  4/15/2021
Dependency Problems Increase for Open Source Components
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  4/14/2021
FBI Operation Remotely Removes Web Shells From Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/14/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
An unsafe deserialization vulnerability in Bridgecrew Checkov by Prisma Cloud allows arbitrary code execution when processing a malicious terraform file. This issue impacts Checkov 2.0 versions earlier than Checkov 2.0.26. Checkov 1.0 versions are not impacted.
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
An information exposure through log file vulnerability exists in Palo Alto Networks PAN-OS software where secrets in PAN-OS XML API requests are logged in cleartext to the web server logs when the API is used incorrectly. This vulnerability applies only to PAN-OS appliances that are configured to us...
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
An information exposure through log file vulnerability exists in Palo Alto Networks PAN-OS software where the connection details for a scheduled configuration export are logged in system logs. Logged information includes the cleartext username, password, and IP address used to export the PAN-OS conf...
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-20
A denial-of-service (DoS) vulnerability in Palo Alto Networks GlobalProtect app on Windows systems allows a limited Windows user to send specifically-crafted input to the GlobalProtect app that results in a Windows blue screen of death (BSOD) error. This issue impacts: GlobalProtect app 5.1 versions...
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-19
An out-of-bounds (OOB) memory access flaw was found in fs/f2fs/node.c in the f2fs module in the Linux kernel in versions before 5.12.0-rc4. A bounds check failure allows a local attacker to gain access to out-of-bounds memory leading to a system crash or a leak of internal kernel information. The hi...