Conficker Virus Threat Not Over

Despite the threat that the Conficker virus was to create havoc on the internet on April 1, 2009, nothing happened, and some persons are of the view that it was an April Fool’s Day prank. However, Digital Technology, an Information Technology (IT) Company in Guyana, does not share the same view. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company, Terrence Sukhu, told Kaieteur News yesterday that the virus threat is not over. Sukhu said that this might just mean the people who control Conficker are biding their time, waiting for researchers and IT managers to relax their guard and assume the worst is over. “It would be pretty stupid for the guys running Conficker to use the first possible opportunity, when everybody is very excited about it and looking at it very carefully. If something was going to happen, it would probably happen in a couple of days,” the CEO said.

Exactly how many computers are infected with Conficker is not yet known, but it is estimated to be over 13 million so far. An expected activation of the Conficker worm at midnight on April 1 passed without incident, despite sensationalized fears that the Internet itself might be affected, but security researchers said users aren’t out of the woods yet.

“These guys have no designs, I think, on taking down the infrastructure, because that would separate them from their victims; the design of Conficker is pretty much state of the art. They want to keep the infrastructure up and in place to make it much harder for good guys to counter and mitigate what they’ve orchestrated.”

Sukhu explained that Conficker was programmed to establish a link from infected host computers with command and control servers at midnight on April 1. To reach these control servers, the virus generates a list of 50,000 domain names and then selects 500 domain names to contact. That process has started. While infected computers have started reaching out to command servers as expected, nothing untoward has happened. “We have observed that Conficker is reaching out, but so far none of the servers they are trying to reach are serving any new malware or any new commands, according to security strategist in Germany.

According to Sukhu, time is not on Conficker’s side, as he noted that the worm could be easily detected and removed by users. For example, if a PC is unable to reach Web sites such as McAfee.com, Microsoft.com, or Trendmicro.com, that is an indication that the computer may be infected. He added that IT managers could easily spot traffic coming from odd domain names and block access to the computers on their company networks. “The longer criminals wait, the less infected hosts they’ve got.” Additional help comes from a loose coalition of security vendors and others called the Conficker Working Group (to which Digital Technology’s Engineers are part of), which has banded together to block access to domains that Conficker is trying to communicate with.

“But it’s not immediately clear whether those efforts, which have been successful at blocking earlier versions of the worm, will be effective against the activation of Conficker…we can’t really say how successful the attempts at blocking them or not routing them are. That’s something we’ll see when the first domain actually starts serving malware, if at least one starts doing that,” Sukhu explained. He added that despite the uneventful passing of the activation deadline, the threat presented by Conficker remains real. “These guys are very sophisticated, very professional, very determined and very measured in how they implement and make changes to things, Conficker is better defended and more survivable than previous versions of the worm.”

It was explained that at some point, the people behind the virus could try to generate revenue from the botnet they’ve created or they could have other intentions.

Published by: Guyana Times International
Date: 2009/04/05

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