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02.13.09

Botnets and Bounties Versus Real Security

Posted in Finance, Microsoft, Security, Windows at 7:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

THERE ARE many reports this week about Windows security problems, but one that really stood out is this one from yesterday:

Microsoft is offering a $250,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the virus writers behind the infamous Conficker (Downadup) worm.

This was also covered in:

So Microsoft plays sheriff and puts money on people’s heads rather than actually produce secure and robust systems. That’s the equivalent of jailing many people for possession of illegal drugs rather than looking for ways to prevent the trafficking of such drugs. It completely ignores the causes and instead addresses an outcome. The outcome is not just tens of millions of hijacked computers in this case; the ‘outcome’ is also teenage cyber-criminal who are empowered by badly engineered systems. Will there be a bounty presented to combat each and every Windows virus that exists (there are over a million, including variants)?

In other news, 8 “critical” vulnerabilities have just surfaced in Microsoft software.

Microsoft Patches 8 Critical Vulnerabilities

Microsoft Tuesday patched eight vulnerabilities — three of them marked “critical” — in the company’s Internet Explorer (IE), Office, Exchange and SQL Server software.

“Critical” is the highest degree of severity in Microsoft’s scale, so it’s only reasonable to expect larger botnets. Speaking of which, Microsoft is again addressing the wrong problem in the wrong way when it tries to take apart botnets rather consider the reasons for their creation in the first place.

Microsoft has beefed up the Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) that ships with its Windows operating system so that it will detect and root out the notorious Srizbi botnet code.

“This month’s MSRT takes on one of the largest botnets currently active worldwide,” wrote Microsoft spokesman Vincent Tiu in a blog posting Tuesday, the day the update to the software removal tool was released. “Win32/Srizbi has been accused of being responsible for a huge chunk of spam e-mail messages sent in the years after its discovery,” he added. “We hope to make a positive impact with the addition of Win32/Srizbi into MSRT.”

This is also covered here.

In other security-related news:

i. Fake Infection Warnings Can Be Real Trouble

Michael Vana knew something was up when he saw the pop-up from “Antivirus 2009″ in the middle of his screen. The former Northwest Airlines avionics technician guessed that the dire warning of a system infection was fake, but when he clicked on the X to close the window, it expanded to fill his screen. To get rid of it, he had to shut down his PC.

ii. Fraudsters cream opposition in cybercrime wars

The celebration of Safer Internet Day on Tuesday was marked by warnings that cybercriminals are staying ahead of defenders in their attempts to defraud or otherwise abuse internet users.

iii. Germany deploys cybersoldiers

GERMANY HAS REVEALED that it has a team of 76 soldiers who are trained to defend the country from cyber attacks and software piracy.

Once again, Windows and the Web are unable to play nice with each other:

New Windows virus attacks PHP, HTML, and ASP scripts

Researchers have identified a new strain of malware that can spread rapidly from machine to machine using a variety of infection techniques, including the poisoning of webservers, which then go on to contaminate visitors.

The malware is a variation of a rapidly mutating virus alternately known as Virut and Virux. It has long proved adept at injecting itself into executable files, which are then able to attack uninfected machines through network drives and USB sticks.

A reader has just alerted us that a man is moving from the Ministry of Finance to Microsoft, hinting at possible government connections. Microsoft has already 'pulled an EDGI/MOU' around there.

Regarding news coverage like this one, wrote the reader, “the non-cached page has some nasty tricks to wipe out non-Javascripted browsers.” Further he added: “I have often wondered if the sudden push to web 2.0 is to compensate for loss of access that various interests have as people depart Microsoft Windows. The reasons for snubbing client-side javascript are still valid, perhaps more so than years past. Certainly there has been no value added. What does get added, aside from slowness and loss of functionality, is a whole slew of ways to remotely access content or activities on the client.”

Those who want a secure system ought to look at GNU/Linux.

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6 Comments

  1. Jose_X said,

    February 13, 2009 at 7:20 am

    Gravatar

    Don’t bad guys sometimes get more motivated when there is a bounty on their head?

    The FOSS way is better. They give. They open up. They give you reasons to be a white hat. They also allow for many white hats so as to keep black hats in check/ineffective. The varied ecosystem limits damage. Etc. Etc.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 13, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Gravatar

    Someone has just raised the valid point that it’s important for Microsoft to point its finger at someone, so the company pays up.

    Hospitals across the UK become botnets due to Conficker? Don’t blame Microsoft. Blame… *that* guy.

    If you leave your door open every night, expect intruders to come through the door one night.

  3. Jose_X said,

    February 13, 2009 at 7:39 am

    Gravatar

    PHP and HTML.. like apache and firefox and ?? are having their names tarnished through associations with Microsoft. It seems whenever Microsoft messes up, they pull down these guys so as to appear to stay even.

    Not smart to embrace a viper.

    These devs should dissociate themselves with Microsoft.

    Tomorrow, these apps may need a paying license simply to run on MSware and maybe even on wine http://boycottnovell.com/2009/02/04/the-api-trap-part-1/ . In any case, why support their monopolies http://boycottnovell.com/2008/11/25/jose-on-mono/ . And let’s not forget the deception that defines Microsoft http://boycottnovell.com/2009/02/08/microsoft-evilness-galore/ .

  4. Jose_X said,

    February 13, 2009 at 7:52 am

    Gravatar

    >> Don’t blame Microsoft. Blame… *that* guy.

    From the article: “This month’s MSRT takes on one of the largest botnets currently active worldwide,” wrote Microsoft spokesman….

    -> Microsoft is taking on bad guys for people’s sake. Microsoft is helping us fight the evil forces of humanity. [Shoot that robot.]

    Anyway they try to spin it, this doesn’t change: Microsoft keeps tons of secrets to themselves (until these escape) so that they can take much more of all our money. The result is that there are fewer people equipped to defend against attacks because Microsoft is not sharing.

    Anyway you look at it, Linux is more responsive to security/safety needs because it’s secrets belong to everyone (and not just to greedy employees and criminal spies).. not coincidentally, making it less expensive than Windows in many ways.

    I wonder if this Conficker tapped into an MS secret or vuln or design flaw that Microsoft can’t afford (isn’t willing) to really fully fix.

  5. Roy Schestowitz said,

    February 13, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Gravatar

    Some holes are designed to be there for the secret services. It was officially confirmed more recently.

  6. Jose_X said,

    February 13, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Gravatar

    >> Not smart to embrace a viper.

    In the future, I’d expect WinFOSS (and not MS’ apps) to be affected by certain types of malware (because of vulnerable system hooks given to FOSS by Microsoft).

    Thus some FOSS devs sell out to Microsoft (and enrich their hostile closed monopoly platforms to the detriment of Linux&friends) only to be betrayed. ..Tell me something new.

    Speaking of betraying “partners”… and of having their hand forced too early, initiating costly ventures, and unbridled ambitions: http://www.reuters.com/article/ousiv/idUSTRE51B7K620090213 “Microsoft to open own stores, take on Apple”

    Besides their own brand, they will probably do more new partnering (eg, with companies run by their ex-execs) to produce brand name FOSS derivatives to eliminate the vanilla apache, php, etc.

    To get into MS’ store, you will need to kiss their ring and take you seat back in the auditorium (for the most part, unless you are an ex-softie — though these too will be sacrificed as necessary).

    Just what we need. Microsoft’s arrogance, bullying, and profit-hoarding, extended into more areas affecting consumers and existing markets.

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