Bot Attacks U.S. Media Giants - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
News
News
8/16/2005
08:26 PM
50%
50%

Bot Attacks U.S. Media Giants

CNN reported late Tuesday that a worm had hit computers in its newsroom, those at ABC and the New York Times and some on Capitol Hill.

CNN reported late Tuesday that a worm had hit computers in its newsroom, those at rivals ABC and the New York Times, some on Capitol Hill, and machines in Europe and Asia. Experts assumed that it was the Zotob bot worm, or one of the other bots that exploit last week's Plug and Play vulnerability on Windows 2000 machines.

CNN took the attack seriously, with reporter/anchor Wolf Blitzer at times highlighting the malware in a "Breaking News" segment. Blitzer showed video of a PC repeatedly rebooting, and warned viewers to back up all data and even to shut down their computers.

The story continued to get play on CNN's cable shows throughout the late afternoon as a "Developing Story" touted by anchors Anderson Cooper and Paula Zahn.

But Chris Carboni, a handler with the SANS Internet Storm Center (ISC), urged calm. "Likely this is an isolated event, which became newsworthy because CNN got infected," Carboni wrote on the ISC's threat thread.

"We do not see any new threats at this point. Zotob keeps mutating and finding new victims. As seen with prior TCP worms, it's reaching its peak around three days after the outbreak."

Other handlers at ISC speculated that the CNN-ABC-New York Times connection "may be as simple as reporters from these organizations visiting the same event and connecting to an infected network." Later, when the reporters returned to their offices, "these infected laptops where able to take out the network from the inside once they connected back to it."

Similar problems have plagued companies in the past, when well-defended perimeter security was defeated by an "insider" threat.

Both the Bloomberg business financial wire service and the Washington Post confirmed that computers at the news organizations had been hit, but spokespeople for both organizations weren't able to identify the attacker. CNN said that the bot worm which hit it was a Rbot variant.

The confusion about the cause of the outage was understandable, since during Tuesday, several more bot variants which exploit the Plug and Play vulnerability were identified by anti-virus vendors.

Symantec, for example, noted the appearance of Zotob.d and Zotob.e, while McAfee released an alert for a new IRC bot, dubbed "IRCbot.MS-05-039." (That bot was designated Esbot.a by Symantec.)

Both Zotob.e and Esbot.a were tagged as level "3" threats by Symantec; earlier bots that used the Plug and Play vulnerability had been marked as only "2" threats.

"I cannot believe this is happening," said Mike Murray, the director of research at vulnerability management vendor nCircle. "It just blows my mind. Microsoft's idea of an operating system lifecycle is just crazy. Patching and security matter on the old legacy stuff as much as on the new stuff."

Microsoft ended mainstream support for Windows 2000 at the end of June, but still provides patches for the aging OS, including the one released with bulletin MS05-039, which defends against attacks like the one CNN reported.

"I never thought that this was going to have these kinds of legs," added Murray. "I think it took a lot of people by surprise, a lot of administrators by surprise, too. There are obviously a lot of people running unpatched Windows 2000 machines."

CNN reported that its attacked machines constantly rebooted, a sign, said Murray of either a malformed bot or a serious problem on the victim. "That says to me that something's gotten messed up on the [attacked] PC."

The patch for the exploited vulnerability can be downloaded from Microsoft's Web site.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
The State of Cloud Computing - Fall 2020
Download this report to compare how cloud usage and spending patterns have changed in 2020, and how respondents think they'll evolve over the next two years.
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

Commentary
New Storage Trends Promise to Help Enterprises Handle a Data Avalanche
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author,  4/1/2021
Slideshows
11 Things IT Professionals Wish They Knew Earlier in Their Careers
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  4/6/2021
Commentary
How to Submit a Column to InformationWeek
InformationWeek Staff 4/9/2021
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Successful Strategies for Digital Transformation
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll