Lax ISPs add to Internet security problem

Open source tools and content systems remain vulnerable.

If ISPs are not trying to be part of the Internet security solution then they are part of the problem and customers should vote with their feet, according to a security officer of a European communications and hosting company.

Scott McIntyre is one of six security officers at KPN-CERT, the Dutch equivalent to AusCERT, and is visiting Australia for the annual conference.

McIntyre believes there is a clear business case for ISPs developing a security practice and a lot of ISPs in Europe are adopting KPN-CERT's practices.

"There is plenty of evil out there and as a provider we have a role to play, like consumers, vendors, and the government," McIntyre said.

McIntyre believes providers should want to invest in security to protect their reputation, and responsible collaboration yields positive results.

He also offered a pragmatic solution: "If you burn the Internet and start over everything will be just fine!"

Given that's unlikely to happen, McIntyre offered a number of recommendations ISPs can adopt to reduce the threat to their hosting customers.

"Public enemy number one are the servers you are running," he said. "Most Windows installs are administered from Russia or Romania via a few gateways.

"I have to check every system we have and everything is run on FreeBSD."

McIntyre runs scripts to determine if rogue software is running on his machines and "on a good day" there is one unknown process, but the average may be six or so and the customers don't know about it.

The top server threats evolve around a lot of malware based on PHP injection, Perl code, and an increasing trend is iFrame targeted attacks.

"We've seen tens of thousands of types of malware and now can see over 250,000 against one Web site in one week. They are looking for vulnerable content systems like Joomla," McIntyre said.

Every day McIntyre and his team scans through access logs looking for malicious code and can identify PHP injection attacks.

"If you look - even if you are not vulnerable - it's good intelligence to see what the bad guys are up to," he said. "I take the IP addresses and send them to organizations like AusCERT so we make sure others are aware of the problems."

Last year McIntyre had less than 8,000 bad URLs and this year alone the team has seen over 6,000 and "every one of those servers are owned by the bad guys".

"They have very user friendly HTTP-based malware to compromise systems, it is just a little bit of Perl and PHP. It was written in Russian but they translated it into English.

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