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Universities warned of Storm Worm attacks
Robert Lemos, SecurityFocus 2007-08-15

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The attacks are thought to be automated, rather than manual, because the surge in packets occurs almost immediately after an infected computer is scanned, he said.

"It is able to be triggered after a known set of actions," Stewart said. "It's not like the guy (bot master) wakes up three hours later and decides to DDoS in response."

The deluge of data comes after a vulnerability scanner attempts to check a compromised PC that is currently being used as a distribution node in the Storm Worm bot net. Such nodes serve up the files used by the Storm Worm to infect a PC and initiate a peer-to-peer connection with other infected systems. While the REN-ISAC warning specifically mentioned attacks on universities, Stewart would not say if companies had also been attacked.

Even school administrator balked at talking about the problem. Mark Bruhn, executive director for REN-ISAC, declined to describe the attacks or say who had been targeted, but said that the warning needs to be heeded before information-technology departments become overwhelmed by returning students.

"We did pressure the parties involved in this situation to allow us to share quickly, because starting very soon, there will be millions of students returning to campuses with computers that have been connected to who-knows-where, and might be infected with who-knows-what," he said in a response to SecurityFocus' request for comment.

The REN-ISAC recommended that universities quickly respond to infections to minimized the chance that compromised systems become distribution nodes, which would trigger an attack. The group also recommended that schools monitor network utilization for suspicious increases and have open communication channels with their Internet service providers.

SecureWorks' Stewart also cautioned researchers to be careful of whom they scan.

"As a general rule, you always risk an attack whenever you go and probe people," he said. "Whether it is manual or automated, you always run that risk, so it is best to be prudent when scanning other networks, especially potentially malicious ones."


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