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Full analysis of the .ida "Code Red" worm.
From: "Marc Maiffret" <marc () eeye com>
Date: Wed, 18 Jul 2001 22:42:45 -0700
The following is a detailed analysis of the "Code Red" .ida worm that we
reported on July 17th 2001.
This analysis was performed by Ryan Permeh and Marc Maiffret of eEye Digital
Security. The disassembly (complete with comments) was done by Ryan
"Shellcode Ninja" Permeh.
Table of Contents
4. Deep Analysis
You can get a copy of this analysis, commented disassembly, full IDA
database, and binary of worm from
On Friday July 13th we received packet logs and information from 2 network
administrators that were experiencing large amounts of attacks targeting the
recent .ida vulnerability that eEye Digital Security discovered
(http://www.eeye.com/html/Research/Advisories/AD20010618.html) on June 18,
2001. After reviewing the logs sent to us we determined that in fact someone
had released a worm into the Internet that was spreading rapidly through IIS
The full analysis of the .ida "Code Red" worm has provided numerous new
details as to the functionality and method of propagation of this worm. For
instance this worms purpose ultimately seems to be to perform a denial of
service attack against www.whitehouse.gov. Also it has been found that only
US English Windows NT/2000 systems will show the defaced ("Hacked by Chinese
!") web page.
We've designated this the .ida "Code Red" worm, because part of the worm is
designed to deface web pages with the text "Hacked by Chinese" and also
because code red mountain dew was the only thing that kept us awake all last
night to be able to disassemble this exploit even further.
As stated earlier the .ida "Code Red" worm is spreading throughout IIS web
servers on the Internet via the .ida buffer overflow attack that was
published weeks ago.
The following are the steps that the worm takes once it has infected a
vulnerable web server.
1. Setup initial worm environment on infected system.
2. Setup a 100 threads of the worm
3. The first 99 threads are used to spread the worm (infect other web
-The worm spreads itself by creating a sequence of random IP addresses.
However, the worm's randomization of IP addresses to attack is not all
together random. In fact there seems to be a static seed that the worm uses
when generating new IP addresses to try to attack. Therefore every computer
infected by this worm is going to go through the same list of random IP
addresses to try to infect. The "problem" with that is that the worm is
going to end up reinfecting systems and also end up crossing traffic back
and forth between hosts to end up creating a denial of service type affect
because of the amount of data that will be transferred between all the IP
addresses in the sequence of random IP addresses. The worm could have done
truly random IP generation and that would have allowed it to infect a lot
more systems a lot faster. We are not sure why that was not done but a
friend of ours did pose an interesting idea... If the person who wrote this
worm owned an IP address that was one of the first hundred or thousand
etc... to be scanned then they could setup a sniffer and anytime and IP
address tried to connect to port 80 on their IP address they would know that
the IP address that connected to them was infected with the worm and they
would therefore be able to create a list of the majority of systems that
were infected by this worm.
4. The 100th thread checks to see if it is running on a English (US) Windows
-If the infected system is found to be a English (US) system then the worm
will proceed to deface the infected systems website. That means... the local
web servers web page will be changed to a message that says Welcome to
http://www.worm.com !, Hacked By Chinese!. This hacked web page message will
stay "live" on the web server for 10 hours and then disappear and never
appear again unless the infected system is re-infected by another host.
-If the system is not a English (US) Windows NT/2000 system then the 100th
worm thread is also used to infect other systems.
5. Each worm thread checks for c:\notworm
-If the file c:\notworm is found, the worm goes dormant.
-If the file is not found then each thread will continue to attempt to
infect more systems.
6. Each worm thread will now check the infected computers time.
-If the time is between 20:00 UTC and 23:59 UTC then the worm will proceed
to use this thread to attack www.whitehouse.gov. The attack consists of the
infected system sending 100k bytes of data to port 80 of www.whitehouse.gov
therefore potentially performing a denial of service attack against
-If the time is below 20:00 UTC then this worm thread will try to find and
infect new web servers.
In testing we have calculated that the worm can attempt to infect roughly
half a million IP addresses a day and that was a ruff estimate made from
using a very slow network.
As of writing this document (July 18 6:49pm) we have had reports from
administrators that have been probed by over 12 thousand unique hosts. That
basically means at least 12 thousand hosts have been infected by this worm.
In testing we have seen that sometimes the worm does not execute correctly
and will continue to spawn new threads until the infected machine crashes
and has to be rebooted. We have not been able to isolate the cause of this
As we sat and watched this worm spread itself through the Internet we were
somewhat dumbfounded as to the number of reported systems being infected.
The main reason for that is that this worm is using a, what we thought to
be, very well known vulnerability. A patch for this vulnerability has been
available for over a month now and at the time of the release of the
vulnerability many news agencies ran stories about it therefore trying to
spread awareness. Even with all of that though there have still been, at the
very least, 12 thousand web servers infected by this worm. So we once again
encourage administrators to pay attention to security issues and patch their
systems as soon as patches are available for holes.
All of this research would not be available if we were not a Full Disclosure
company and if the many people who helped us research this worm were against
full disclosure. Although we did not release any exploit code for the .ida
vulnerability, the computer underground still had no problem creating a
devastating worm. In the past we have seen a much higher percentage of
patched systems when example exploit code was provided. System
administrators do not believe vulnerabilities exist without a public
exploit, or until something like this worm happens forcing them to patch
their systems. We feel that if the security community moves away from Full
Disclosure more incidents like this will happen and everyone will be left in
the dark as to what is going on.
An example of why full disclosure is so important would be this worm itself.
Chances are this worm would have not been discovered if we had not fully
disclosed details about the .ida vulnerability, allowing Intrusion Detection
System vendors to create signatures for the .ida buffer overflow attack.
Because of the way that IIS performs logging (logging a request after
processing it), servers hit with this worm will actually have no traces of
information left in the IIS log files making tracking this worm (via IIS
logs) virtually impossible. The first instances of _anyone_ learning
anything useful about this worm was via Intrusion Detection Systems that had
signatures based on our .ida vulnerability research which would not have
been there if not for full disclosure. The computer underground continues to
find vulnerabilities everyday. If full disclosure goes away, then the
general security community is left in the dark, and therefore so are
More and more we are seeing an increase in worms attacking the Internet.
There have been about 2 or 3 worms in as many months. Worms force computer
security to become a global issue. With the rise of the Internet, not only
do you have to worry about securing your own systems, you must also be
careful of your "neighbors" systems. For instance with this worm even if you
have done everything right (installed the .ida patch etc...) your network
connection could still be taken down because of the amount of data flooding
you from all of the "other guys" who hadn't applied patches and were
infected by this worm. It is important to not only maintain your own
security but make sure that other people you come in contact with secure
their sites. Only with global cooperation to maintain security will the
threat of worms start disappear.
We received information from "friends" that leads us to believe that this
worm is actually a derivative of another worm which was written to exploit
the first ever remote IIS buffer overflow (also discovered by eEye Digital
Security), the .htr buffer overflow. From reports, the .htr worm had a much
smaller infection base and seemed to go under the radar probably because the
.htr vulnerability was/is very old.
The following is a very detailed analysis of what the worm is doing at each
step of its infection. Full disassembled and commented worm code is
available at our website at http://www.eeye.com/html/advisories/codered.zip.
It will be provided as both a assembly text dump and as a IDA (Interactive
Disassembler) database file. We have chosen not distribute the worm code in
this eMail as to not clog up your bandwidth anymore then we already are >:-]
Note: We will use CODEREF comments in the analysis to reference where we are
in the disassembled code so you can "follow along" with us.
The tools that we used to perform this detailed analysis were:
IDA (Interactive Disassembler) from www.datarescue.com. IDA is an advanced
disassembler that made this analysis possible.
MS VC++ debugging environment. We used this to monitor modified pieces of
the worm as they interacted with IIS.
Ryan's brain + Marc's brain + private eEye tools. No... you cant have any of
We will be heavily referencing the disassembled worm code in the following
In an attempt to make this easier to understand we have broken the
functionality of the worm into 3 parts. The core worm functionality, the
worm hack web page functionality and the attack www.whitehouse.gov
Core worm functionality
1. Initial infection vector (i.e. host is vulnerable to the .ida attack and
gets hit with this worm).
The initial infection starts to take place when a web server, vulnerable to
the .ida attack, is hit with a HTTP get request that contains the necessary
code to exploit the .ida attack and uses this worm as its payload.
At the time of the .ida overflow a systems stack memory will look like the
<MORE 4E 00>
4E 00 4E 00 4E 00 4E 00
4E 00 4E 00 4E 00 4E 00
4E 00 4E 00 4E 00 4E 00
92 90 58 68 4E 00 4E 00
4E 00 4E 00 4E 00 4E 00
FA 00 00 00 90 90 58 68
D3 CB 01 78 90 90 58 68
D3 CB 01 78 90 90 58 68
D3 CB 01 78 90 90 90 90
90 81 C3 00 03 00 00 8B
1B 53 FF 53 78
EIP is overwritten with 0x7801CBD3 which an address within msvcrt.dll. The
code at 0x7801CBD3 disassembles to:
When EIP is overwritten with call ebx it then causes program flow to divert
back to the stack. The code on the stack jumps into the worm code that's
held in the body of the initial HTTP request.
2. Sets up some initial stack variables
CODEREF: seg000:000001D6 WORM
At this point we are executing the initial code of the worm. The first thing
to happen is that the worm sets up a new stack for its own use. The new
stack is 218h bytes, filled with CCh. The worm code then moves on to
initialize its function jump table.
The entire worm heavily uses an EBP stack based memory offset system. This
means that all variables are referenced as EBP-X values. On our website we
have a document called worm-ebp.txt that attempts to track stack usage
throughout the course of the worm code.
3. Load functions (create the "jump table")
CODEREF: seg000:00000203 DataSetup
The first thing the worm code does is reference the data portion of the
exploit code at EBP-198h. The worm then needs to setup its internal function
jump table. A function jump table is a stack based table used to store
function addresses. It allows the worm to generate the function addresses at
run time (This makes the worm have a better chance of executing cleanly on
The technique used by this worm is what is called an RVA (Relative Virtual
Addresses) lookup. Basically this means that all functions, or specifically
GetProcAddress, are found within IIS itself. For more details on RVA please
consult any good PE (Portable Executable, the executable file format for
Microsoft platforms) documentation, or read through the assembly code of
In a nutshell, RVA techniques are used to get the address of GetProcAddress.
GetProcAddress is then used to get the address of LoadLibraryA. Between
these two functions all other functions that the worm may need can be easily
found. The worm uses these two functions to load the following functions:
Finally the worm stores the base address of w3svc.dll which it will later
use to potentially deface the infected website.
4. Check the number of threads the worm has created.
CODEREF: seg000:00000512 FUNC_LOAD_DONE
Here the worm seems to perform a WriteClient (Part of the ISAPI Extension
API), sending "GET" back to the attacking worm. This possibly could be a way
of telling attacking worms that they have successfully infected a new host.
Next the worm code will count the number of worm threads already in action.
If the number of threads is 100 then control is shifted to the Worm hack web
If the number of threads is below 100 then the worm creates a new thread.
Each new thread is an exact replica of the worm (Using the same code base).
The worm now continues its path of execution.
6. Checks for the existence of c:\notworm
CODEREF: seg000:0000079D DO_THE_WORK
There seems to be a to be built in "lysine deficiency" (See Jurassic Park,
or Caesar's paper on this at www.rootkit.com). A "lysine deficiency" is a
built in check to keep malicious code from spreading further.
In this case the "lysine deficiency" is a check for the existence of the
file c:\notworm. If this file exists then the worm will become dormant. This
means it will not attempt to make connections out to other IP addresses to
try to infect.
If this file does not exist then the worm continues onto the next step.
7. Check the infected systems time (computer clock)
CODEREF: seg000:00000803 NOTWORM_NO
The worm will now check the infected systems local time (in UTC). If the
hour is greater then 20:00 UTC then the worm will proceed to goto the first
step of the attack www.whitehouse.gov functionality.
If the time is less than 20:00 UTC then the worm will attempt to continue to
try to infect new systems.
8. Infect a new host (send .ida worm to a "random" IP address on port 80).
At this point the worm will resend itself to any IP addresses which it can
connect to port 80 on. It uses multiple send()'s so packet traffic may be
broken up. On a successful completion of send, it closes the socket and goes
to step 6... therefore repeating this loop infinitely.
Worm hack webpage functionality
This functionality is called after a hundred threads are spawned within the
1. Check if local system default language is English us then goto step 6 of
core worm functionality.
CODEREF: seg000:000005FE TOO_MANY_THREADS
The first thing the worm does is get the local codepage. A codepage
specifies the local operating system language (I.E. English (US), Chinese,
German etc...). It then compares the local codepage against 0x409. 0x409 is
the codepage for English (US) systems. If the infected system is an English
(US) system then the worm will proceed to deface the local systems webpage.
If the local codepage is not English (US) then this worm thread will goto
step 6 of core worm functionality.
2. Sleep for 2 hours.
CODEREF: seg000:00000636 IS_AMERICAN
This worm thread now sleeps for 2 hours. We anticipate that this is to allow
the other worm threads to attempt to spread the infection before making a
presence known via defacing the infected systems webpage.
3. Attempt to modify infected systems webpages in memory.
CODEREF: seg000:0000064F HACK_PAGE
This worm uses an interesting technique called "hooking" to effectively
deface (alter) an infected systems webpages. Hooking is modifying code in
memory to point to code that the worm provides. In this case the worm is
modifying w3svc.dll to change the normal operation of a function called
TcpSockSend. TcpSockSend is what w3svc.dll (IIS core engine) uses to send
information back to the client. By modifying this, the worm is able to
change data being written back to clients who request web pages of an
To perform hooking, first the worm makes the first 4000h bytes of
w3svc.dll's memory writable. In a normal situation the memory for w3svc.dll
(and basically all mapped dll's) is read-only. It uses the function
VirtualProtect to change the memory of w3svc.dll to be writable, saving the
old state to a stack variable.
It then uses the saved codebase of w3svc.dll (from step 3 of core worm
functionality) as a start point to search the import table (again see PE
header documentation) for the address of TcpSockSend. Once the address for
TcpSockSend is located the worm then replaces TcpSockSend's actual address
with an address within the worm.
The address that TcpSockSend now points to is a function within the worm
that will return the "Hacked by Chinese !" webpage. The CODEREF for this
function is seg000:00000C9A FAKE_TCPSOCKSEND.
This thread of the worm now sleeps for 10 hours. During this 10 hours all
web requests to the infected server will return the "Hacked by chinese !"
After the 10 hours is up this thread will return w3svc.dll to its original
state, including re-protecting memory.
Execution after this proceeds to step 6 of the core worm functionality.
Attack www.whitehouse.gov functionality
Sooner or later every thread within the worm seems to shift its attacking
focus to www.whitehouse.gov.
1. create socket and connect to www.whitehouse.gov on port 80 and send 100k
byes of data
CODEREF: seg000:000008AD WHITEHOUSE_SOCKET_SETUP
Initially the worm will create a socket and connect to 18.104.22.168
(www.whitehouse.gov/www1.whitehouse.gov) on port 80.
CODEREF: seg000:0000092F WHITEHOUSE_SOCKET_SEND
If this connection is made then the worm will create a loop that performs
18000h single byte send()'s to www.whitehouse.gov.
CODEREF: seg000:00000972 WHITEHOUSE_SLEEP_LOOP
After 18000h send()'s the worm will sleep for about 4 and a half hours. It
will then repeat the attack against www.whitehouse.gov (goto step one of
Attack www.whitehouse.gov functionality).
This is associated information about the "Code Red" worm including how to
stop the worm, commentary on the worm, and dispelling common misconceptions
about this worm.
How to secure your system from this .ida "Code Red" worm?
Microsoft patch for this .ida vulnerability
The worm spreads itself to new vulnerable systems via the .ida
vulnerability. Applying this patch will keep your server from being
infected. However, as stated earlier, because of the way the worm creates
its list of "random" IP addresses to attack, you could still be affected by
a high traffic overload denial of service.
eEye Digital Security Advisory for .ida vulnerability
We initially discovered the .ida vulnerability which is being used by this
worm as its infection vector. The above advisory details our research of
that specific vulnerability. We worked with Microsoft to help them create a
patch for the .ida vulnerability.
SecureIIS - Application firewall, stops known and unknown IIS
We do produce a product that protects IIS web servers from attack which is
one of the reasons that we were so quick to research this worm. Funny enough
in our initial testing we couldn't get the worm to work because we forgot we
had SecureIIS enabled on the lab web server. heh.
I have been infected by this worm what can I do?
The first thing you must do is goto the Microsoft security site, as
referenced above, and install the .ida patch ASAP. The worm will remain in
memory until you reboot your server so make sure to reboot after installing
the .ida patch.
I think I am infected, how can I tell?
An infected system will show an increase in load (processor/network). It
will also show a number of external connections (or attempts) to port 80 of
random IP addresses. You can see this by doing a "netstat -an" from a MS-DOS
prompt. Either way do not take any chances... if your system is missing the
.ida patch then install it ASAP and reboot.
How to setup your IDS to detect this specific worm?
The following is part of the packet data that is sent for this .ida "Code
Red" worm attack:
Just add that to your IDS signature database.
What are some common misconceptions about the "Code Red" worm?
1. It connects to worm.com.
This worm only specifies www.worm.com in the initial HTTP GET request HOST:
header and in the defaced page show on English (US) systems. This worm does
_not_ connect to www.worm.com. This worm operates completely independent and
can spread and infect systems without having a single point of failure. What
that means is that this worm will be wild on the Internet until there is a
_VERY_ high degree of systems that go and install the .ida patch.
2. This worm is based off of hsj's "proof of concept" .ida exploit.
This worm is _NOT_ based off of hsj's "proof of concept" .ida exploit. His
exploit code had no worm functionality. It was a simple exploit shell that
had little to no implicit functionality. It was designed to prove to
administrators the seriousness of this vulnerability so that they would
install patches ASAP.
Ken Eichman of Chemical Abstracts Service
Matthew Asham of Left Coast Systems Corp
and a large handful of administrators who gave us much needed data to piece
eEye Digital Security
http://eEye.com/Retina - Network Security Scanner
http://eEye.com/Iris - Network Traffic Analyzer
http://eEye.com/SecureIIS - Stop known and unknown IIS vulnerabilities
"Its not a virus! Its a worm!" - z3r0 c00l
"Whats this one eat?" - l0rd n1k0n
"th1s 0n3 34ts 11S s3rv3rs!" - ch4m3l30n
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- Full analysis of the .ida "Code Red" worm. Marc Maiffret (Jul 19)