Monday, 19 January 2009

New computer worm spreads

The BBC website covers the latest 'worm' attack which is threatening PCs around the world. Dubbed the Conficker virus, this worm is spreading rapidly through low security networks, memory sticks, and PCs without current security updates. The malicious program was first reported in October last year although there has been no direct impact yet - security experts say that the spread of the worm appears to be levelling off, although there are fears someone could easily take control of any and all of the 9.5m infected PCs.

PC users should continue to remain vigilant about these type of attacks and have up-to-date anti-virus software, as well as install Microsoft's MS08-067 patch. Some experts are saying that this outbreak is at a scale they had not seen for some time.

The BBC report says that Microsoft have described the worm as one that works by searching for a Windows executable file called "services.exe" and then becomes part of that code. It then copies itself into the Windows system folder as a random file of a type known as a "dll". It gives itself a 5-8 character name, such as piftoc.dll, and then modifies the Registry, which lists key Windows settings, to run the infected dll file as a service.

Once the worm is up and running, it creates an HTTP server, resets a machine's System Restore point (making it far harder to recover the infected system) and then downloads files from the hacker's web site. Most malware uses one of a handful of sites to download files from, making them fairly easy to locate, target, and shut down. But Conficker does things differently by using a complicated algorithm to generate hundreds of different domain names every day but only one of these will actually be the site used to download the hackers' files. This could make tracing this one site is almost impossible.

Microsoft has said that the malware has infected computers in many different parts of the world, with machines in China, Brazil, Russia, and India having the highest number of victims.

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