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Risk

2/16/2007
05:48 PM
Sharon Gaudin
Sharon Gaudin
Commentary
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Would You Use A Virus Writer's Antivirus Patch?

The Chinese hacker who was recently arrested for writing and selling the Fujacks worm could be writing code to run on your corporate network. Now what do you think of that?

The Chinese hacker who was recently arrested for writing and selling the Fujacks worm could be writing code to run on your corporate network. Now what do you think of that?Li Jun, the alleged author of the virus, was recently arrested, along with five other men. They've been charged with creating and selling the virus that distracted users with a picture of a panda while it stole user names and passwords from online game players. The worm, also known as Whboy, has grabbed a lot of attention with its tactic of converting icons of infected programs into a picture of a panda burning joss sticks as it steals user names and passwords from online game players.

By the way, joss sticks, according to Wikipedia, are incense sticks usually burned before a Chinese religious symbol or shrine.

Anyway, here's the interesting part -- the Chinese authorities reportedly have said they're going to allow Jun to release a seek-and-destroy fix to wipe it out. Police have said they'll test it and then release it on the Internet.

What an odd plan. I'm just not sure if it's stupid or brilliant.

Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, definitely is not going with brilliant. "Hackers and virus writers have shown themselves to be irresponsible and untrustworthy and I certainly wouldn't choose to run their code on my computer," he wrote on the Sophos Web site. "Additionally, the Fujacks virus left some infected files unable to run. That hardly suggests that the author took quality assurance seriously when he constructed his malware. Our recommendation to computer users would be to clean their PCs with professional tools written by security experts."

OK. OK. I can hear some of you now saying Cluley is only griping because he wants the antivirus vendors, like Sophos, to get the business. But there's more than that going on here. Do we want virus writers being the ones to write the code that fixes the mess they created? Obviously, the code will be gone over before it's released, but who will go over it? How thorough will the inspection be?

Jun's worm affected a lot of systems and the people who use them.

What I'm asking is, should consumers and companies be using a fix that he creates?

"Malware authors have tried to write antivirus programs in the past," writes Cluley. "For instance, Stormbringer of the Phalcon/SKISM virus-writing gang -- whose real name was Mike Ellison -- wrote a utility to clean-up the SMEG virus, and Mark Washburn, who created the V2P6 polymorphic virus, also wrote antivirus software. …However, the public tends to trust the security researchers who haven't been tainted by writing viral code."

So, what do you think? If he writes a fix that's released to the public, is that fit payback, or at least good cosmic karma? Or is using a fix written by a man who's under arrest for creating the problem in the first place just this side of ridiculous?

You tell me. I'd love to hear what you think about this.

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