Re: [ISN] Researchers predict worm that eats the Internet in 15 minutes

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Tue Oct 22 2002 - 22:55:21 PDT

  • Next message: InfoSec News: "[ISN] Attack On Internet Called Largest Ever"

    Forwarded from: Russell Coker <russellat_private>
    On Tue, 22 Oct 2002 10:56, InfoSec News wrote:
    > By Ellen Messmer
    > Network World Fusion
    > 10/21/02
    > The three authors of the research, published two months ago, present
    > a future where worm-based attacks use "hit lists" to target
    > vulnerable Internet hosts and equipment, such as routers, rather
    > than scanning aimlessly as the last mammoth worm outbreaks, Nimda
    > and Code Red, did last year. And this new breed of worms will carry
    > dangerous payloads to allow automated denial-of-service and file
    > destruction through remote control.
    Let's talk about "dangerous payloads".  A large part of the problem
    here is that daemons get too much access to a typical server.  
    There's no need for a daemon to have access to write any file on the
    system (root access on a typical Unix machine).  Posix capabilities
    combined with non-root operation are a good step in the right
    direction but still aren't as comprehensive as you would like.  Also
    Posix capabilities don't work well when a program has a need to change
    UIDs or write files owned by other users on occasion.
    Any decent Mandatory Access Control scheme should allow the daemons to
    be restricted enough that they have minimal opportunities to do
    damage.  Even a compromised sshd should not result in the server being
    However if "dangerous payload" means a DOS attack on
    then that's something that is probably impossible to prevent.
    > The paper argues that this next generation of computer worms --
    > which would certainly have military application during war - would
    > carry knowledge about a specific server's vulnerability and
    > propagate at a breathtakingly high rate of infection, "so that no
    > human-mediated counter-response is possible."
    Why would you bother having lists of pre-scanned servers?  Servers can
    change between scan time and access time.  Also configuring servers to
    misreport their version numbers is a reasonably common practise.
    A worm that's properly designed would spread exponentially, so an
    untargetted attack would cover the entire net fast enough.  The only
    difficult part would be choosing suitable pseudo-random algorithms to
    ensure that all the machines don't concentrate their attacks on a
    small range of addresses while only providing minimal cover for other
    ranges (a problem that past worms had).
    > Staniford says they tested the paper's thesis in a lab simulation of
    > a computer worm designed to subvert 10 million Internet hosts over
    > both low-speed and high-speed lines. Supplied with its own "hit
    > list" of IP addresses and vulnerabilities gained through prior
    > scanning, the theoretical worm could infect more than nine million
    > servers in a quarter hour or so.
    I'm surprised it couldn't go faster.
    > The authors conclude that just as the U.S. government has
    > established the "Centers for Disease Control" in Atlanta as the
    > central voice in matters related to new health risks for the nation,
    > it would benefit the country to set up an operations center on
    > virus- and worm-based threats to cybersecurity.
    However the government does have a basic understanding of diseases,
    but little clue about computers.
    Better to just punish companies that publish the software that has
    security holes if they don't fix them fast enough.  I suggest that
    they lose a year's revenue from product sales if the bug isn't fixed
    within 1 working day.
    However legislation may not be the best way of doing this, I suggest
    class-action law suits.
    --   My NSA Security Enhanced Linux packages  Bonnie++ hard drive benchmark    Postal SMTP/POP benchmark  My home page
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