Warning of "deep-set complacency" among electronic commerce site administrators, a security consultant said a growing number of servers running Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Information Services (IIS) are afflicted with a back door program making them vulnerable to unauthorized control.
Some 27 percent of IIS sites tested in August have a back door shell installed by worms such as Code Red, Code Red II, or sadmind/IIS, up from 6 percent in May, Martyn Tovey, senior security consultant at Netcraft Ltd., said Monday. The figures are based on Netcraft's contract testing of "several hundred" sites for its security customers each month, he said.
Even among sites that have been correctly patched for known server vulnerabilities, almost 13 percent still have the back door root.exe installed, up from less than 6 percent in May, Tovey said.
Microsoft officials were not immediately available for comment.
Despite the heavy publicity surrounding the Code Red attacks and subsequent patches issued by Microsoft, "clearly the instructions didn't stress enough that you may already have been compromised and therefore you should take extra measures, ," Tovey said.
"And that includes going through and removing any back doors and any directories on the system where back doors could be located. That's one area where all the warnings haven't been effective," Tovey said.
Tovey noted that back doors have been discovered under other names as well, including shell.exe and command1.exe, and that systems administrators need to check for and remove them as well as applying security patches to protect against new infections.
"There's potentially a mentality where sysads will patch because they're told to patch, without fully realizing the implications of what it is they're patching," he said.
In the wake of an embarrassing series of holes identified in IIS, including the high-profile Code Red attacks publicized in July, Microsoft has issued a number of security patches, and most recently a tool preventing changes to the IIS configuration on a system, IIS Lockdown. Tovey said that one positive development from the publicity is that Microsoft has begun bundling all previous patches in with current issues, so that systems administrators who might have missed an earlier patch will automatically be brought up to date.
"The fact that people have been patching for Code Red has had an impact on other vulnerabilities as well," he said.