Storm worm can befuddle NAC

Interop attendees hear of new threats, countermeasures … and retaliation

As a result, researchers who have managed to glean facts about the worm are reluctant to publish their findings. "They're afraid. I've never seen this before," says Corman. "They find these things but never say anything about them."

And not without good reason, he says. Some who have managed to reverse engineer Storm in an effort to figure out how to thwart it have suffered distributed DoS attacks that have knocked them off the Internet for days, he says.

As researchers test their versions of Storm by connecting to Storm command-and-control servers, the servers seem to recognize these attempts as threatening. Then either the worm itself or the people behind it seem to knock them off the Internet by flooding them with traffic from Storm's botnet, Corman says.

The sheer variety of attacks against corporate networks is also soaring, according to a study released at the show. The number of new pieces of malware has spiked dramatically starting in February, marking a new phase in attack production, security experts say.

"That's the change in motivation," says Ryan Sherstobitoff, product technology officer for security vendor Panda Software, which presented the results of its security survey at the show. "That's where the business model kicks in."

"The motivation has shifted from prestige to profit to political," says Corman. That means that rather than writing code for massive disabling of systems and reveling in twisted glory, the writers of malicious code are writing for profit or to commit cyberterrorism.

Just as motivation is shifting, the quality of the attacks is improving, he says. They are targeted at individual companies or persons with the goal of stealing intellectual property or valuable personal data.

One security executive at the show who could not speak for attribution because his company does not allow it, said he has encountered attacks tailored for individual executives within his corporation.

According to Sherstobitoff, makers of malware no longer write it and toss it directly into the wild, but test it to find out whether it is effective against likely corporate defenses. These criminals perform quality assurance and even offer the equivalent of service-level agreements on how effective their wares will be, he says.

Meanwhile, show-goers were told they need new architectures to protect corporate networks against changing threats while also opening those nets to access anytime, anywhere, and from any place.

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