06:50 PM

Security Volunteers Reach Out To Kama Sutra-Infected PCs

The goal is to notify companies and anyone who might be infected--before the worm is due to start overwriting files on Feb. 3.

Security experts from a volunteer task force have collaborated with the Internet Storm Center and others to contact ISPs and companies whose computers have been infected with the Kama Sutra worm before the Feb. 3 trigger when the worm begins overwriting files.

Kama Sutra, which also goes by a bewildering range of names including Nyxem.e and Blackmal.e, has been spreading for less than two weeks, and probably has infected several hundred thousand PCs, say analysts. Its most distinguishing characteristic: it will overwrite the data in a long list of document formats -- primarily those of Microsoft Office, but also some of Adobe as well as a pair of popular compression formats -- with a text string, rendering the files useless.

The worm also trips a Web site counter each time a copy infects a computer. It's this counter that led the TISF BlackWorm task force, a loose group of volunteers, to a list of affected domains.

According to Randy Vaughn, a professor of information systems at Baylor University, and a member of the task force, the counting site's host ISP provided a log of the counter page that was invaluable.

"We took the IP addresses and time stamps," said Vaughn, "and matched those to our lists of autonomous systems. We already had an automatic notification [system] running, so we sent out 2,000 notifications."

Once the notifications are received by the ISPs or companies, it's up to them to decide how to alert their users.

The task force came out of the MWP (Malicious Websites and Phishing) and DA research groups, a loose confederation of security professionals who work for anti-spam/anti-virus vendors, various nations' CERTs, universities, and ISPs. The group last mobilized publicly in August 2005 when it put out an alert warning of growing scams after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit the Gulf Coast of the U.S.

Vaughn characterized the task force and the MWP/DA as a volunteer "civil defense system," but acknowledged less kind descriptions. "We really don't like the term 'security vigilantes,'" he said.

The task force split the list with the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center to e-mail notifications to ISPs and other networks whose addresses appeared in the log. "We've had an excellent response," Vaughn said. "I've gotten hundreds of e-mails from the networks we notified.

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