Microsoft plans to release tool to remove Trojan

Microsoft plans to release a software tool to clean computers infected by a Trojan horse program linked to recent, widespread Web-based attacks on Windows users.

Mike Nash, Microsoft's corporate vice president for the Security Business and Technology Unit said that the company would publish a cleaner tool Tuesday for the Trojan, known as Download.Ject or "Scob."

Nash was speaking at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, an annual gathering of the company's business partners.

Nash said that the company's decision to release cleaner tools in recent months for viruses including Blaster, MyDoom and Sasser was part of a commitment to provide "authoritative information and guidance" to customers about security issues. The cleanup tools are software programs that scan Windows systems for signs of a virus, such as configuration changes or files associated with infection, according to a statement from Microsoft. Customers can then click a button to remove the infection from their Windows system.

Previous cleanup tools, which Microsoft distributes for free from its Web page, have been popular with Windows users. Millions of copies of both the Blaster and Sasser removal tools, giving a rough estimate of the number of systems affected by such outbreaks.

Nash said that roughly 40 million Microsoft customers have used the tools since the Blaster removal tool was released in January 2004.

The creation of a Download.Ject removal tool is just the latest step by Microsoft to try to counter the effects of widespread Web-based attacks that used patched and unpatched flaws in the Internet Information Server (IIS) Web server and Internet Explorer Web browser to plant a Trojan horse program on vulnerable Windows systems.

The attacks, which were first spotted in June, were attributed to a Russian criminal hacking group called the Hangup Team. Some companies that failed to apply a recent software patch for Microsoft's IIS Version 5.0 Web server fell victim to the attacks, in which hackers modified the configuration of IIS servers, allowing malicious code to be appended to every HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) document served from the compromised Web sites.

Two vulnerabilities in Windows and the Internet Explorer Web browser enabled attackers to silently run the malicious code on machines that visited the compromised sites, redirecting the customers to now-dormant Web sites controlled by the hackers. While the user was on the Web site, a Trojan horse program was downloaded and installed on the customer's system and captured sensitive information, such as account numbers, user names and passwords.

On July 2, Microsoft announced changes that alter the configuration of its Windows 2000, XP and Windows Server 2003 operating systems to help customers fight off the attack. The company disabled a Windows component called ADODB.Stream, which online criminals used to copy malicious code onto Windows users' machines.

Despite Nash's promise, no removal tool was available on the designated Microsoft Web page, www.microsoft.com/downloadject, as of Tuesday morning.

(Additional reporting by Joris Evers in Toronto.)

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