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Hacker exploits make PC worms deadlier
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 13:24:02 -0500 (CDT)


By Wendy McAuliffe
ZDNet (UK) 
October 18, 2001 5:20 AM PT
Computer worms are set to become a more deadly combination of virus
writing and hacker exploits, according to security experts at

Code Red and Nimda marked the demise of socially engineered worms, by
combining a blended threat of proven hacker exploits. Both worms
attacked the same buffer-overflow vulnerability in Microsoft's IIS
software, while Nimda additionally incorporated a mass-mailing
component enabling the virus to propagate on a massive scale. Neither
of the worms relied on the traditional need for an infected computer
user to double-click on a malicious attachment.

"Nimda and Code Red have eliminated the need for human intervention,
by virus writers using what hackers have already provided," said Eric
Chien, chief researcher at Symantec. "One year ago email worms were
the big threat, as they spread quickly and far--but now a lot more
virus writers will be looking at the hacker worm."

Chien predicts that by next year, the "blended" threat of computer
worms could be enough to cause a serious Internet slowdown. Antivirus
experts at Symantec have already developed an algorithm to prove that
by removing human interaction from the virus equation, every PC
connected to the Internet could be affected by a single worm within 20

But the trend towards blended virus attacks is blurring the lines of
responsibility for computer worms. On Wednesday, Microsoft launched a
verbal attack on security firms and hackers who release what it calls
virus "blueprints". A study done by Microsoft on recent attacks by
worms such as Code Red and Nimda found that each had been prefaced by
the release of so-called exploit code--sample programs created by
security firms and hackers to exploit software flaws.

"Responsibility lies with the people who release the worm, not
necessarily the people who wrote it," said Chein. The Anna Kournikova
virus, for example, was written with the help of an existing virus
toolkit available on the Internet, but Chein argues that the script
kiddie who unleashed the virus is the person ultimately responsible
for any damage caused to the networks.

The changing trend in computer viruses is also likely to affect the
structure of IT security companies. Hacker worms will make it
necessary for antivirus units to merge with intrusion detection
systems, according to Chein. "Companies who only concentrate on the
antivirus side won't survive," he concluded.

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