I was trolling the antivirus sites recently looking for a hot threat and was overcome by the dominance of old, endemic ones that have dropped to “low” status.
Sasser aside, its been a while since there was a worm threat out there worth worrying about—and far longer since we had a mail worm that made a difference.
As Jay Munro of PC Magazine reported in his most recent Security Watch, weve had quite a number of worms such as Sasser emerge to take advantage of the LSASS vulnerability in Windows, but none of them has much traction.
I have to figure that Sasser polluted the field for all these latecomers. Sasser wasnt the kind of worm you could sit and suffer with.
It rebooted the system frequently. Anyone who was vulnerable to Sasser probably got it and was forced to deal with it, not only by removing the worm but by applying the patch or blocking the relevant ports on a firewall.
As a result, there probably arent that many vulnerable systems out there. There are always bound to be some, such as new systems set up with Windows XP but without the latest patches. (The answer for such people is an up-to-date Windows Update CD. Microsofts latest one was in February, and they havent answered my questions about whether they will update it again.)
But of course you are a responsible user/administrator, so you had the patch applied and you blocked the ports on your firewall(s) before Sasser ever hit. So, none of these threats are really a problem for you or your users. What threats are out there?
Lets look at Symantec Corp.s threat lists: Its got Gaobot.ALV, Gaobot.ALW, Korgo.B and Korgo.C as elevated threats (2 on a scale from 1 to 5), not because it has ever seen one in the wild but because theyre dangerous.
Look at everyones lists of the threats youre likely to encounter in the wild, and theyre all much older.
Symantec still has Sasser.B as a 4 out of 5, but most of the problem is Netsky variants from two months ago. And I can understand how there are no new Netsky variants since they busted the author, but why are there no new Bagle variants either?
The bottom line is it seems like if you have defenses in against the LSASS exploit, youre set against the best todays malwarriors have to throw at you. You can take off early for a supersized Memorial Day weekend (thats an American thing for those of you abroad), or you can take the opportunity to tighten your defenses.
If I were a malware author waiting to spring the trap with a new attack, Friday night of Memorial Day weekend would look pretty good to me. Lots of skeleton crews in place.
Make sure theres some way to know if an attack begins when youre vulnerable over the weekend, so at least you can shut things down. Translation: Bring your BlackBerry out to the beach with you.
In the meantime, time to test and install operating-system patches and firmware upgrades youve been putting off. Even the ones you thought you didnt need because you blocked access for the attack at the firewall. Time to check your log files to see if anyones been reconnoitering your network.
And you know what? My main servers been up and running for about two months now; Im going to reboot it and scan it. Its almost superstitious, but I bet it runs better, and if there is some nonpersistent threat running, Ill clean it out.
Time to do one more check through your firewall policies, for old accounts that dont need to be there, for old services related to software that isnt running anymore.
Time to scan user areas for unauthorized executables—or to implement policies that prohibit them from running anyway. Oh yeah, and its time to devise a patch management policy with priority toward Internet-facing systems and implement it in patch management software.
Its time to do all of that good stuff you wish you had time for.
Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.
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