Security specialist succumbs to worm

A hacking attack on a security specialist proves no one is immune.

New Zealand IT security assessment firm Co-Logic says US hacker group PoisonBOx not only defaced its website on the weekend of June 15, but implanted a worm that could have potentially been spread to any site visitor.

Co-Logic founder Arjen de Landgraaf says he knew his company was a potential target -- it has logged hundreds of attempted hacks. In preparation for any such attack Co-Logic set up a "honey pot" structure within the site, to trace the path and methods used by the PoisonBOx group without compromising security. The hackers took the bait, replacing the site's front page with their own version: "PoisonBOx Ownzzzz".

However, even though a "corporate-strength" firewall -- Raptor -- is in place, PoisonBOx broke through and accessed the real system. Because the site uses one static page while the rest of the pages are generated dynamically, Co-Logic says the hack did not cause any real damage. But the hackers then inserted a hidden worm virus that could have been transferred to the temporary Internet files folder of a user's computer, meaning a virus could be transmitted to browsing visitors.

The vulnerability was enabled by the presence of two files left behind by Windows Uninstaller when Co-Logic staff removed versions of FrontPage 98 from their systems. "In a sense it is embarrassing, but as a result we discovered a new vulnerability we weren't aware of," says de Landgraaf.

The site runs on NT4 and Internet Information Server, dynamically generating its pages through XML and is located behind the firewall at the end of a 2Mb connection to the Internet.

Co-Logic says the security breach highlights the need for risk-evaluation and gap-plugging across all IT areas. "Groups like PoisonBOx run circles around IT professionals," says de Landgraaf.

In an interesting twist, Co-Logic's site has been re-defaced by an anti-PoisonBOx group of hackers, suspected of being Chinese-based. Rival hackers have been at cyberwar since the escalation of Sino-American tensions earlier this year, when a US spy-plane crashed in Chinese territory. Arjen de Landgraaf says he even has suspicions -- prompted by the presence of the worm virus -- that the initial attack itself may have been from Chinese hackers rather than their "good guy" US adversaries.

Co-Logic IT security specialist Peter Crowder warns IT managers be aware of vulnerabilities in Windows commonly exploited by PoisonBOx such as Front Page Extensions (_vti_bin), MSADC, Rpc, easily accessible scripts and PBServer (phone book server).

"Use commonly available exploit codes to check whether the patches supplied by Microsoft 'have taken' and that the site is secured against these attacks," says Crowder, who also points to defacement-recording sites www.alldas.de and www.safemode.org.

Co-Logic blames software companies for successful hacks. "They spend a lot of money marketing software, trying to recoup their development costs," says de Landgraaf. "And they release software on the market that is either not tested enough or has too many permutations."

Story courtesy of IDGNet NZ.

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Tom Rodwell

PC World
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