Hacker publishes Oracle proof-of-concept worm

A worm that can attack Oracle databases has been posted to a security-related Internet mailing list.

A worm that can attack Oracle databases has been posted to a security-related Internet mailing list, raising the specter of possible future worms with dangerous payloads.

Code for the worm was posted Monday by an anonymous person on the Full-disclosure mailing list who used the subject line "Trick or treat Larry." It is a "proof of concept" worm with a harmless payload, but similar worms could automatically spread among databases and wreak havoc, security researchers said Wednesday.

"Trick or treat" is the first Oracle worm that security researcher Alexander Kornbrust has seen "in the wild," outside a lab setting. Hackers who target Oracle databases normally aim at a single database and steal information from it, said Kornbrust, of Red-Database-Security GmbH, in Neunkirchen, Germany. A worm could automate the process of getting into many databases within a company or on the Internet, he said. Some enterprises use thousands of Oracle databases.

Two factors limit the size of the worm's threat, according to security analysts. It takes advantage of default passwords provided by Oracle, which users typically replace with their own passwords, though Kornbrust estimates that half of all Oracle shops use a default password on at least one database. In addition, most Oracle databases are not connected directly to the Internet, so an attacker would have to get access to the LAN to release the worm.

To protect themselves against the worm, users should stop using default passwords and also password-protect the "listener" element of the database, a process that is responsible for communication between a user and the database, Kornbrust said. Most users leave this process open without a password, he said.

The "trick or treat" code won't cause any damage, according to analysts. Once it gets into a database, it just creates a new table, called "x." But greater threats could be on the way.

"As always, it's possible to change the payload and do more dangerous things, like modifying data, deleting data, or stealing data," Kornbrust said. He doubts a future attacker would use the very same code, but thinks an Oracle database worm would not be particularly hard to write.

If a worm could successfully spread using default passwords, the next thing to worry about would be one that includes "dictionary" attack code to figure out passwords, said David Kennedy, senior security analyst at Cybertrust. A "dictionary" attack tests words from the dictionary as possible passwords. Fortunately, most administrators of valuable Oracle databases don't use the kinds of simple passwords that could be easily found by this kind of attack, he said.

"If I was responsible for a valuable Oracle installation, I'd already be thinking about that kind of problem," Kennedy said. "This is one of those things that (Oracle administrators) would have already architected against."

One reason database worms are rare may be that they are not good tools for stealing data, Red Database's Kornbrust said. However, analysts said a worm that could rapidly go from one database to another could cause problems by erasing or changing data. For example, an attacker could unleash a worm on a company and change the information in its databases, then extort money from the company for a remedy that would bring back the correct information, Kornbrust said.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?