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

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Oct 23 2002 - 23:39:40 PDT

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    Forwarded from: Russell Coker <russellat_private>
    On Wed, 23 Oct 2002 07:58, InfoSec News wrote:
    > Forwarded from: Robert G. Ferrell <rferrellat_private>
    > > 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.
    > The operative term here is "vulnerable."  Properly secured systems run
    > very little risk of infection by "killer worms," or anything else.
    I agree with that statement, but I suspect that our ideas of "properly
    secured systems" differ.
    > True 0-day exploits that make use of previously totally unsuspected
    > vulnerabilities and bypass properly configured firewalls are
    > exceedingly rare.
    0-day exploit attacks seem rare.  However they are quite possible.  I
    think that everyone on this list is just waiting for the next serious
    security hole in to be found in BIND, Sendmail, or IIS.  A malicious
    person could write an entirely new virus without delivery mechanism
    and just wait for the next suitable security hole to be published
    before the patch.  They could probably put the appropriate delivery
    code into their virus shell and release it faster than the vendor
    could hope to write a fix (let alone release it and have customers
    install it).
    > 'Taking down the Internet' will involve a lot more than getting a
    > bunch of idiots to open attachments with names like "readme.exe."
    > It's important to draw a distinction between clogging the Internet
    > with spurious traffic (Denial of Service) and actually disrupting
    > routing.
    I am curious, if you had a good number of well connected machines
    sending out minimum size packets to random addresses, how hard would
    it be to overload a core router?
    I guess that people who design core routers count on traffic having an
    average packet size of at least 400 bytes and there being some
    possibility of route caching to save route lookup time.  If lots of
    small packets significantly reduce the average packet size (and
    therefore increase the number of packets to handle) while also
    increasing the number of destination addresses in use (and thrash the
    cache) then could this cause a router to suddenly start dropping
    significant numbers of good packets?
    I would be interested in seeing some comments from someone who really
    knows how big routers work in regard to this issue.
    > DoS is potentially serious if massively distributed, but even the
    > worst DDoS attacks are temporary. Incapacitating routers or root
    > name servers, on the other hand, would have far more lasting effects
    > on Internet communications, but widespread failure of these devices
    > can be obviated by as simple a trick as ensuring heterogeneity of
    > equipment (by their nature worms
    What if you have millions of machines suddenly start sending out
    random DNS queries directly to the root servers with false source
    addresses, to any local name servers configured in the OS, and to the
    local country servers for the TLD of their country?
    No matter what types of equipment was used that would result in ISP
    DNS caches being taken out first (causing the more technical users to
    configure their machines to use the root servers instead of a DNS
    forwarder) and then eventually the root servers and servers for the
    TLD's being taken out next.
    > But if these same software vendors would take the responsibility
    > upon themselves to train their programmers to code securely and not
    > to release software until it was exhaustively tested for security
    > vulnerabilities, the need for scrambling to release/install patches
    > would disappear.  As an example, you can't target a buffer overflow
    > against software that has no runaway string operations or other
    > variables that lack bounds checking.
    I recommend reading the NSA paper "The Inevitability of Failure" .  It makes a good case
    that merely fixing buffer overflows etc is not enough for good
    security.  It's a good part of providing a secure system (and a part
    that has not been done properly on most OSs and applications), but you
    need far more.
    > Concentrating on patching mechanisms is treating a symptom, not the
    > disease.  Patching will never run better than a poor second to
    > secure coding.
    Absolutely.  Note that "secure coding" requires avoiding excessive
    privilege, and that can only properly be provided by Mandatory Access
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