[ISN] DoS Attack May Tap Web Graphics Flaw
isn at c4i.org
Mon Jun 28 05:45:58 EDT 2004
By Dennis Fisher
June 24, 2004
Security experts are tracking a new piece of malware that appears to
be compromising large numbers of Windows PCs and may be laying the
groundwork for the creation of a large spamming network or a major
attack in the future.
Analysts at NetSec Inc., a managed security services provider, began
seeing indications of the compromises early Thursday morning and have
since seen a large number of identical attacks on their customers'
networks. The attack uses a novel vector: embedded code hidden in
graphics on Web pages.
When visitors to a few particular Web sitesincluding popular auction,
shopping and price-comparison sitesrequest pages that include the
malicious graphics, the code automatically downloads itself onto their
machines. Once installed, the code unpacks itself and loads a
keystroke logger on the PC.
NetSec officials said the attack seems to exploit a vulnerability in
The code then forces the machine to contact two IP addressesone in
Russia and one in the United States. The Russian site is hosted on a
broadband connection and is part of a network known for spamming and
After contacting these sites, the tool then downloads some other files
to the compromised machine. NetSec officials said they are still
analyzing the code and are unsure what the exact purpose of the new
"We think it's probably a staging activity for further attacks," said
Brent Houlahan, chief technology officer at NetSec, based in Herndon,
Va. "It may be setting up for a large DDoS [distributed denial of
service] attack or setting these machines up as spam relays."
Compromised PCs often are used by attackers to launch large-scale DDoS
attacks against one or more targets. And they also are valued by
spammers who like to install software that enables them to send large
volumes of spam messages from the machines. Using dozens or hundreds
of compromised PCs makes it virtually impossible for investigators to
track attacks or spam back to the original source.
Houlahan said he was unsure how many machines had been compromised at
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