So what will happen

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-02-02 Print this article Print

Feb. 3?"> And I did get one big caveat from an analyst I respect. Ken Dunham, director of malicious code for iDefense Inc., reminded me that the availability of the backdoor in both opens some possibilities that are difficult to predict. There could be some unknown capability being introduced through it, and perhaps we just still recognize the mutated infection as a simple MyDoom.A. Its possible, but its also been many days now that experts have had these viruses in their possession and they have been analyzing many honeypot systems. If there were something more going on, I think wed know about it by now. Perhaps theres some important technical flaw in the worm and the companies dont want to discuss it publicly.

So on Feb. 3, when the B virus launches its planned DDOS attack on and, will the world end? It appears that Microsoft has very little to fear. There arent enough infected systems out there to raise a stink, and theres no reason to believe there will be any disruption of service. As for, its already temporarily out to pasture from the MyDoom.A attack, and MyDoom.B wouldnt have changed things much.

The small number of systems with the infection made me consider the possibility tracing the worm back to the author. If there really are just a few out there, perhaps careful forensic examination of them can identify the initial seeding of the virus and even the source of the initial seeding. I asked Chris Belthoff, senior security analyst at anti-virus company Sophos, who said that—sadly—it doesnt work this way. There are thousands of lesser viruses that dont spread beyond a few systems, and the authors of these typically dont get caught. I guess youd have to make a stupid mistake.

As Netcraft observes in its analysis, Microsoft could be taking defensive measures as it has done in the past, such as giving Akamai or some other content distribution network the front-end duties for serving The company has not done so. still points to a series of Windows servers on IP addresses owned by Microsoft. I guess Microsoft doesnt see all that big a threat either.

Isnt it interesting that these mass-distribution virus authors usually make some important technical error? The reason, in a very general sense, could be that its not easy to write quality software that can run on a wide variety of systems, even if they are all just different versions of Windows. This is one of the reasons companies have beta tests and hire independent testing firms. Alas, virus writers have a problem in arranging beta tests, and even to the extent that the A variant is a beta for the B and C variants, they dont get all the feedback they would want. Heres to non-standardization!

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Be sure to check out eWEEK.coms Security Center at for the latest security news, views and analysis.

More from Larry Seltzer

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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