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When Hacked PCs Self-Destruct 418

Posted by timothy
from the fate-blesses-you-with-a-chance-to-reinstall dept.
An anonymous reader writes "From The Washington Post's Security Fix blog comes a tale that should make any Windows home user or system admin cringe. It seems the latest version of the Zeus Trojan ships with a command that will tell all infected systems to self-destruct. From the piece: 'Most security experts will tell you that while this so-called "nuclear option" is an available feature in some malware, it is hardly ever used. Disabling infected systems is counterproductive for attackers, who generally focus on hoovering as much personal and financial data as they can from the PCs they control. But try telling that to Roman Hüssy, a 21-year-old Swiss information technology expert, who last month witnessed a collection of more than 100,000 hacked Microsoft Windows systems tearing themselves apart at the command of their cyber criminal overlords.'"
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When Hacked PCs Self-Destruct

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  • by fractalVisionz (989785) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:29AM (#27873241) Homepage
    It looks like slashdot was taken down by the self destruct too!
  • Remember... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Archaemic (1546639) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:29AM (#27873243)
    Hackers can turn your home computer INTO A BOMB
  • by Erythros (140001) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:33AM (#27873269)

    All versions of windows are affected by this self-destruct bug,

    BY DEFAULT!!!!

    There are many series of commands that can make your machine unwillingly self destruct...

    • by daid303 (843777) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:38AM (#27873309)
      You don't need any commands for that. Just let it run for a while.
    • by Z00L00K (682162) on Friday May 08, 2009 @06:03AM (#27874109) Homepage

      Any machine today can self-destruct given the right circumstances.

      The problem lies in the fact that all computers have a flash bios that usually isn't write protected in hardware.

      And hard disks have their firmware in flash, which also can result in "interesting" permanent crashes.

      So if a hacker wanted to give a certain operating system bad credit all that's needed is to prepare a huge botnet and then blow the machines.

      Counter-productive - yes, but don't expect the internet to be free of vandals. We have vandal-protected ATM:s and a lot of things are suffering from vandalism even though there is no reason, so why not your machine?

  • Hardly self-destruct (Score:5, Informative)

    by clickclickdrone (964164) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:38AM (#27873303)
    All it does is mess up the OS - the hardware is fine, hardly a 'nuclear option' or 'self-destruct'.
    • by Chrisq (894406)

      All it does is mess up the OS - the hardware is fine, hardly a 'nuclear option' or 'self-destruct'.

      In fact it could prompt someone to install Linux afterwards

    • by wvmarle (1070040) on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:04AM (#27873483)

      Try explaining that to Joe Sixpack. When Windows doesn't work for whatever reason, the computer is "broken" and needs to be taken to a shop for repair. They can not tell the difference between broken hardware or broken software (and software hick-ups may of course be caused by broken hardware that still mostly functions - it is not always that easy to tell, even by experts).

      Self-destruct is imho a very apt description.

      Maybe it should be used more. Then more people would feel the pain of being infected. Of those 100,000 computers I can not imagine they can actually use the data of more than a handful of people for serious crimes. All the rest of the people is not affected until the malware disables their computer.

      • by supernova_hq (1014429) on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:13AM (#27873531)
        Reminds me of when I was a kid. I'd go a friend's house and they'd have this really cool toy, but when I asked if we could use it, they'd say "No, it's broken". Now being a fix-it guy at heart, my first response was "What's wrong with it". 90% of the time (no joke), they would say "The batteries died".

        Remember, this was before iPods, etc when pretty much everything took 2 AA batteries covered by nothing but a simple plastic knob.
      • by MrMr (219533) on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:46AM (#27873699)
        Try explaining that to Joe Sixpack
        What does it tell when educating the average person becomes a metaphor for an impossible task?
        • by wvmarle (1070040) on Friday May 08, 2009 @05:35AM (#27873949)

          It means a computer has become a commodity, an appliance, rather than a high-tech toy. And that in itself is a good thing. Joe Sixpack should not need to know how the internals of his computer work, just the basics. I do expect Joe Sixpack to know about Windows and preferably the existence of alternatives, about a hard disk and what it does and how big he should want it, what a processor speed roughly means and whether he would need 1GB or 2GB or 4GB of memory for his needs. I don't expect him to be able to install an operating system, hunt down drivers to make it all work, partition the hard disk in the process, care about whether it is NTFS or FAT or whatever, and be able to know what the information on a blue screen means. I don't know how the internals of my digital camera work, but I do know what the megapixel and zoom functions mean for example. But if there is a problem with it I go back to the shop.

          To add the obligatory car analogy: I don't know how an internal combustion engine works, but I do know what it means to have say a 1.6 diesel engine in your car. When something about the car is broken I call my garage, I'm not trying to have it fixed. I know I have to add fuel, have to check oil now and then (though in modern cars that's also less and less), and how to add water for the windscreen sprinklers (dunno how you call those things in English). That's enough.

          100 years ago you would have to be able to fix your own car: they were new technology, quite rare, and for a select audience only. Cars were technically simpler at the time which also helped a lot. The same for computers. 20 years ago we were working with DOS, people owning a computer and actually being able to use it could normally also install the OS, and do low-level operations. That is not necessary anymore.

          When a computer breaks down and can not start up anymore it is often NOT trivial to figure out what is wrong. An error message is not always caused by the direct error: some minor corruption in your video driver, and then the image on your screen starts playing up. Or is it really the monitor that is not good? It's not that easy.

          OK time to stop, I start rambling, I think the point is clear.

          • by MrMr (219533) on Friday May 08, 2009 @05:57AM (#27874077)
            Thanks for my favourite car analogy.
            Do we really allow everybody to take of in a 'commodity' car and cause uncontrolled damage?
            Or do we demand proof of a minimal level of control of the vehicle, and a good insurance if things go wrong?
            • by wvmarle (1070040) on Friday May 08, 2009 @06:11AM (#27874155)

              Doing damage with a car may damage other cars, other people's property, and cause injury or death. The driving license is to help prevent those accidental damages, and the insurance is to cover you financially if it still goes wrong. An insurance will likely not cover damage done intentionally.

              Computers are not so. There is no way that by normal use of a computer you can cause serious damage to other computers. Let alone hurt or kill people. Those matters almost have to be intentional, and thereby proving serious control over the computer and knowing what you are doing.

              Your analogy is seriously flawed. Cars and computers are analogies when it comes to technical fields, not when it comes to liability as a result of using them.

              • by iangoldby (552781) on Friday May 08, 2009 @07:55AM (#27874785) Homepage

                Doing damage with a car may damage other cars, other people's property, ...

                There is no way that by normal use of a computer you can cause serious damage to other computers...

                You're joking right? Where do you think most spam comes from, distributed denial of service attacks, identity theft, etc? hint [wikipedia.org]

              • by plover (150551) * on Friday May 08, 2009 @08:08AM (#27874875) Homepage Journal

                Actually, by "normal use of a computer" your computer can indeed cause serious damage to other computers, or to property. That's what TFA is all about.

                Let's look at "normal use of a computer." And by "normal" I don't mean "geek normal", I mean "Joe Sixpack normal".

                Joe Sixpack goes to Best Buy and buys a computer. He doesn't spend the $50 for the anti-virus software ($50 a year? The hell I will!) or $50 for a firewall (I already pay the cable company for this blue box just like it), and he dismisses every single warning, checking the "don't show me this again" box because he didn't understand it the first time. And then he surfs to the porn sites. So what we'd consider reckless behavior is pretty much "normal use of a computer".

                There are no cops to give him a ticket for surfing on unsafe equipment, because it's not illegal. Nobody's going to protect him because he's not willing to pay extra for anti-virus. And we all know that his machine is going to be turned into a zombie within 15 minutes of connecting to the internet without a firewall.

                As far as the damage goes, his zombied computer may attack and infect others. The direct costs to Joe Sixpack may include PC troubleshooting and repair, loss of data, and dealing with the theft and abuse of personal banking information. Banks are held liable to cover any fraud losses that result, and they collectively spend billions annually. And for secondary effects, we know there have been suicides due to lost money and also due to computer harassment. I don't think you can simply say that a computer can't "hurt" anybody.

                ( And this isn't about assigning blame. There's plenty of that: Joe Sixpack may be as irresponsible as they come, and dumber than average. The malware writers are common thieves. Some operating system vendors sell Swiss cheese. And every vendor in the process is happy to take Joe's money without regard to the consequences to him. )

                If cars were as unregulated as computers, very few of us would safely return home on a daily basis.

          • by Viol8 (599362) on Friday May 08, 2009 @06:30AM (#27874273)

            It means you go everywhere reeaaaalllllyyy slloooooowllly...

        • by Huntr (951770) on Friday May 08, 2009 @05:52AM (#27874053)

          I don't know how to fix my car. I don't know how to fix my tv. I don't even know how to fix a lawn mower. If any of those break beyond something minor, someone else has to fix it for me. The computer is in the same niche for the vast majority of computer users.

          • by NotBornYesterday (1093817) * on Friday May 08, 2009 @10:25AM (#27876301) Journal
            You might not know how to fix your lawnmower, but I'd bet you know how to put gas & oil in it, remove dog poo from the wheels, and have the sense not to run over big, obvious rocks. By not taking basic, common-sense (oxymoron, I know, I know ...) precautions and doing basic maintenance, Joe Sixpack invites this upon himself. The information is available. The products to help protect Joe & his Wintoy are inexpensive and easy to get and use.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Stevecrox (962208)
            Do you not find that depressing? I know how to strip down a rebuild my super bike, I can repair lawn mowers, build furniture, I'm gonna have a look at an old LCD and see if its fixable. Sure I can do none of these things to the same standard as a craftman. But I understand the principles and can get things done when needed.

            I've never understood this desire by the "average" person not to take any interest in what they spend their money on and use everyday. I recently spent £700 on a TV, before I did
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:06AM (#27873491)

      When it leaves all your files intact.

      The thing whacks the registry. Hardly a "nuclear option"; all your files are intact. Running the repair tool off your install CD should fix this, or you can do a reinstall with "leave filesystem alone" option.

      I heard a Congressman once say, "reporters are fight promoters". If they keep overstating what's happening, we won't know how to really secure our machines.

      • Running the repair tool off your install CD should fix this, or you can do a reinstall with "leave filesystem alone" option.
        Unfortunately a significant proportion of OEMs don't provide proper install CDs anymore :(. Afaict that started sometime arround the late win98/early winME era (I never bought a machine that came with 2K big brand OEM so I can't comment on what happened there).

        In the 98/ME/2K days this wasn't such a big deal since you could just borrow a CD from someone who had a proper copy. However microsofts actions with and since the release of XP have made it much more awkward to get arround this by just borrowing a CD. Big brand OEM copies are bios locked. system builder and retail copies require activation and if you use them with a big brand OEM key you are going to have to ring MS and beg for activation. Volume license copies of XP don't have this shit but using a generated key is likely to trip up WGA and using a borrowed key on any machine you don't control puts the company it was borrowed from at risk of ending up on the WGA shitlist. With vista the no-activation-requied VLK copies have gone completely.

    • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:06AM (#27873495)

      It is far worse.

      A friend, just last night, showed me his highly-infected laptop (please, being serious here). Not only did he have one of those "Infect the "customer", then sell them a fake cure" scams, but he had what appeared to be an everyday Trojan, with one huge difference.

      It had created a hidden partition (I deduced this from HD size discrepency between reported size and actual), copied over enough "Windows" to run as a separate OS, then nuked his normal partition OS. When he reformatted, he wasn't paying attention (didn't know any better) and didn't delete that partition. The trojan was essentially maintained, right through a reformat (albeit, an incomplete one). It was an easy mistake to make considering how many Dell/Compaq built machines come with a separate 10-20GB partition that isn't always deleted on reformat, and for that reason the numbers for HD partition space don't always add up.

      Here is where the sneaky part comes in. They nuked his OS, right?

      NOW, after he thinks everything is groovy, he starts reinstalling applications, re-entering information and passwords and re-bookmarking sites. All while the trojan watches.

      THAT is what the "nuclear winter" is for in these cases, to lull the user into a false sense of security.

      • It's the only way to be sure.
        To be a bit more serious what I mean by "from orbit" is run everything from some sort of media that the malware never had a chance of touching - preferably a completely different OS on read only media. Then the partitions go and the new ones get formatted before use etc etc.
        Of course the above poster knew that even though the victim of the anecdote didn't.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Plekto (1018050)

          To be a bit more serious what I mean by "from orbit" is run everything from some sort of media that the malware never had a chance of touching - preferably a completely different OS on read only media. Then the partitions go and the new ones get formatted before use etc etc.

          I remember when a lot of laptops (and a couple of PCs) did exactly this via OS in ROMs. Nice clean boot up every time, with no viruses or other idiocy. Perhaps PCs should consider making a move back to this again?

          With the advent of fla

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          One problem: A very high percentage of people have as their only backup of their software and operating system, a seperate partition on their disk. If that gets deleted, then they would have to repurchase windows, as well as any software bundled with their machine since their manufacturer was too cheap to include reinstall cds and they are too computer illiterate to know how to burn them from the image on their disk.
      • by Jedi Alec (258881) on Friday May 08, 2009 @05:06AM (#27873807)

        If he reformatted his C: and installed a fresh windows on there, how were files from the windows install on the hidden D: being launched by the trojan? Especially if you launch an install from a bootable device such as a CD, I don't quite see how the hidden install on the second drive would be able to interfere with the reinstall or operation of the fresh install?

    • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:53AM (#27873735)

      You've missed the point. And while you apparently read part of the article, you didn't read all of it obviously.

      That or you have no idea what Data is worth. Why do you think these guys are in this business?

      The data on your machine is worth anywhere from about as much as the hardware, up to 1000+ times as much as the hardware, depending on how much cash you have in your bank account.

      What this trojan did was "nuke" the OS. If it did its job well enough the fix won't be as easy as popping in a recovery disk (if you've still got it) to fix it, though a recovery partition aught to get you back to square one at least.

      Depending on who got hit, getting their PC up and running could take anywhere from a few hours (unlikely, since that person probably runs AV software and is careful about where they visit), to a few days, to weeks depending on how often they use the machine.

      If the whole point in tanking the OS was buy time to use stolen credit card and account info, it would be pretty effective, no?

      Frankly, if all they did was somehow manage to short out the hardware without stealing any data, then it's not really much of a loss at all. Losing $50k out of your bank account, now that's a serious loss.

  • by jimicus (737525) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:38AM (#27873311)

    this could actually be a good thing if it happens.

    This is mostly speculation so take with as much salt as you think it needs.

    Historically, there's not been an obvious connection in the mind of a user whose PC has been hacked with there being a serious problem with this. After all, most home users are probably unaware that their computer is participating in a huge DDOS attack in the first place, and ISPs have been very reluctant to police their customers.

    I don't think credit card fraud through keyloggers is anywhere near prevalent enough to make people take notice either. Let's face it, a trojan which installs a keylogger and reports anything which looks like credit card details back to a known location is going to produce more valid credit card details in the space of a couple of weeks than most people could hope to use in a lifetime of fraud so even if your card details are stolen this way, I'm not sure there's a huge chance they'll ever be used.

    But if the trojan hoses the host PC along with all the family photographs and all the music they've paid good money for - ah, now that might actually make people realise that there's a problem.

    • by arkhan_jg (618674) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:59AM (#27873431)

      This kind of destructive behaviour is what most ordinary people still associate with viruses; if it's not hosing the computer entirely, it's nothing to worry about. That they're partly responsible for the spam tsunami, and that their credit card details might be leaking all over the place, just simply doesn't seem to be on their radar.

      so they keep that 3 month trial of norton they got with the computer 3 years ago, and think they're safe because their computer hasn't blown up yet.

      Plus they have a remarkable tolerance for popups - the amount of pcs I get asked to look at because they're 'a bit slow' that are utterly riddled with spyware, maladware and a notification area that fills half the start bar, and are hitting swap space as soon as they boot up...

      • by GF678 (1453005) on Friday May 08, 2009 @09:25AM (#27875571)

        Plus they have a remarkable tolerance for popups - the amount of pcs I get asked to look at because they're 'a bit slow' that are utterly riddled with spyware, maladware and a notification area that fills half the start bar, and are hitting swap space as soon as they boot up...

        I know, it's ridiculous!

        Today I was looking at a teacher's personal laptop, waiting for it to complete the logging in process after entering user credentials in Windows XP. My laptop can cold boot, run POST, boot Vista, log into my account, show the desktop and complete loading of all startup programs/services, then shutdown and power-off, and that entire process would STILL have been quicker than this guy's laptop finishing its startup after user login. Not to mention it was using 100% of one of the cores continusly and no process was showing the cause.

        I kept reiterating to him, this isn't normal! How can you have been working like this for so long? Turns out he agreed, and was planning to buy a new laptop. Doesn't matter that nothing's physically wrong with the current one, and I can guarantee a reformat/reinstall would show an amazing difference. But I suppose throwing cash at new hardware is one way to fix things.

        • by powerlord (28156) on Friday May 08, 2009 @01:27PM (#27878635) Journal

          But I suppose throwing cash at new hardware is one way to fix things.

          Well, in their defense, that has been "required" up till relatively recently.

          If you wanted to run Office/Web Browser/Watch Videos/etc. you often needed to upgrade your computer a few times over the past decade or two.

          Most people are still caught in that mindset of "oh, I guess I'll need to replace it every X" where X is somewhere between 6 months and 2 years.

          They also don't probably realize that the computer they have NOW (provided they got a dual-core model with "enough" memory) is probably sufficient to do anything most people use it for on a daily basis ... provided it doesn't get loaded down with Malware/Crapware/Viruses/Trojans/etc.

          Until they realize that the old "upgrade treadmill" has leveled off, they're still expecting their computer to slow down over time. :/

    • by mcrbids (148650) on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:08AM (#27873503) Journal

      But if the trojan hoses the host PC along with all the family photographs and all the music they've paid good money for - ah, now that might actually make people realise that there's a problem.

      I take it you have no experience dealing with "the public" and computers. They get horked, they see weird popups, and have no idea that it's really unusual. It's all "black magic" to them, anyway, so they don't differentiate much between a "Are you sure you want to NNN" and "Sending bomb threat to Pres Obama" messages.

      If it has an OK button, they'll click on it to get it out of their face.

      Once, I was doing tech support, and the customer was complaining about a condition, and I was SURE that the instructions for how to fix the condition were being displayed to the end user, who adamantly denied it. I walked her through the process, step by step, and at the appropriate point, asked her if any warning box or anything showed up. She said she saw nothing.

      So I set up a remote desktop session, had the customer perform the software procedure again, slowly, so I could see what happened. She clicked slowly, step by step, and then, at the appropriate point, I saw a brief white flash before she told me that, once again, nothing had happened.

      So I told her to take her hand OFF THE MOUSE while I performed the sequence myself.

      This time, as expected, the dialog box popped up explaining what the problem was, and exactly what to do to fix it. When I asked if she'd ever seen it before, she said "Oh yeah, I just click OK whenever I see it". I pointed out to her the first sentence in the box, which was something like "WARNING: read this carefully or you will probably lose important data!". Somehow, "lose important data" was not the same as "Why isn't the program remembering what I typed?".

      And this was no idiot - she was a well trained, college/university graduated professional!

      There is lots of humor in society about the stupidity of the average Joe. Remember that, by definition, half of everybody is even dumber than that. Sad, when you think about it, huh?

      • by williamhb (758070) on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:55AM (#27873753) Journal

        This time, as expected, the dialog box popped up explaining what the problem was, and exactly what to do to fix it. When I asked if she'd ever seen it before, she said "Oh yeah, I just click OK whenever I see it". I pointed out to her the first sentence in the box, which was something like "WARNING: read this carefully or you will probably lose important data!". Somehow, "lose important data" was not the same as "Why isn't the program remembering what I typed?". And this was no idiot - she was a well trained, college/university graduated professional! There is lots of humor in society about the stupidity of the average Joe. Remember that, by definition, half of everybody is even dumber than that. Sad, when you think about it, huh?

        Your users are not stupid; they have simply been desensitised by an endless stream of trivial messages marked "Warning" and "Important", and have intelligently deduced that those words are not meaningful because they are attached to every dang message and pop-up they receive. Ever notice how many pieces of trivial junk mail have the word "Important" on them? "Important notice for car-owners" about the latest insurance offer. "Warning! You may be paying too much for your haircut", etc. And recorded phone calls... "This is an important announcement about your finances ... call Rip-Off-Consolidators Ltd for the best deals in town". Not to mention the endless stream "Warning! Contents of this coffee cup may be hot" [I dang well hope so]. And the "Important" license agreements that are actually irrelevant to your staff when they start corporate-installed software for the first time [the company has already made that decision], but must nonetheless click through. The "Important" email announcement about HR training on the safe way to open an envelope (warning of the terrible dangers of a paper cut)... The "important" notice on the intranet page about staff inductions (the only useful content of which is "where's the stationery kept").

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:57AM (#27873763)

        And this was no idiot - she was a well trained, college/university graduated professional!

        Just pointing out that these two things are not mutually exclusive.

        Cheers!

      • by JordanL (886154) <jordan.ledouxNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday May 08, 2009 @05:18AM (#27873865) Homepage

        There is lots of humor in society about the stupidity of the average Joe. Remember that, by definition, half of everybody is even dumber than that. Sad, when you think about it, huh?

        Wouldn't that be the stupidity of the median Joe?

        Just sayin'.

      • by Eivind (15695) <eivindorama@gmail.com> on Friday May 08, 2009 @06:01AM (#27874095) Homepage

        The reason people, even smart well-educated ones ignore alerts, is that they're trained to.

        You're bombarbed with useless alerts containing useless info all the time, which over time causes you to pay less and less attention to them. What is the use of "Program xyz caused a thsdgas in module drgasefasdfs at memory-address 0xab124134qab, here's a dump of the cpu-registers" It's just noise.

        If I'm stupid enough to update during the workday, why does XP need to ask every 15 minutes if I want to reboot ? Why is there no option for "NO! I'll do it myself -- when I want to." (there's only "now" and "later", the latter meaning "nag me again in a few minutes")

        Vista made it -worse- "Program X wants to do Y, do you want to allow this?" pops up all the time, usually in response to you 3 seconds earlier having explicitly asked for Y -- so the answer is an obvious yes.

        When people get dozens of alerts a day, 95% of which contain nothing that is understandable or useful to them, it's no wonder they've learnt to ignore them and do whatever it takes to get them out of the way.

  • by lordofthechia (598872) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:40AM (#27873315)

    The next "I'm a PC, I'm a Mac" commercial is gonna rule!

    Mac: Umm... PC.... why are you stabbing yourself repeatedly with that pen...

  • by phantomcircuit (938963) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:49AM (#27873357) Homepage

    Could you screw with the voltage and thermal thresholds to cause a system to literally self destruct?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Krisbee (644227)

      If windows controls the fans, you could possibly make the system work really quiet :-] ...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by benjamindees (441808)

      Rumor has it that old Athlons built before hardware thermal throttling could catch fire and burn down your PC. But I've never seen any proof of this.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        That was the 1st-gen Athlons, i.e. the Thunderbird class. The thermal sensor couldn't handle rapid increases in temperature (I think the limit was one degree C per five seconds or something like that) so if the heatsink failed or you forgot to put thermal compound on there...

        What you got was a puff of smoke, and a dead CPU and motherboard (more specifically the CPU socket usually melted, and the core voltage regulators cooked). Still a bit of an expensive cockup though; this was in the days where a Tbird wo

    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:02AM (#27873445) Homepage

      It's possible, at least to some extent. Old CRTs could be fried with bad programming. Modern CPUs usually have a thermal fail safe (i.e. a reboot) but not every component does this. I'm pretty sure my Radeon doesn't have this feature, since it gets hot as hell if I let it run for too long.

      Another interesting option is USB. I believe it's possible to alter the USB power with a software driver. Just set the power level to over 9000, and your peripherals will fry.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I believe it's possible to alter the USB power with a software driver. Just set the power level to over 9000, and your peripherals will fry.

        Um, no.

        The voltage on a USB connector is fixed at 5V. The controller starts up the slave device (a mouse or whatever) at 100mA, reads off the device descriptor, then kicks it up to 500mA if the device needs it, and if enough power is available.

        The rule is, having too much voltage will blow stuff up, but a device will only take as much current as it needs. If you have a chip that needs 500mA at 5V, then plug it into a 1A 5V power supply, then the chip will only 'take' 500mA from the PSU.

        Thing is, the USB hos

    • There already are overclocking tools that do exactly that.
      Control the fans, the temperature threshold, cpu freq etc...
      I don't see why a worm or other malware can't do the same thing.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:51AM (#27873371)

    The way you say that makes it sound like it's a bad thing...

    So, essentially, you're telling me that people who get infected are at risk of losing their PC's data. People unable or unwilling to keep their PCs secure might suffer the consequences thereof themselves instead of only posing a threat to others on the net, through spam, DDoS or spreading more malware.

    Care to explain where the negative aspect is?

  • Good! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:53AM (#27873391) Homepage Journal

    Finally, home PC security will be taken seriously.

    Come on, we know it works like that. Nobody takes the common flu seriously, because most of the time it doesn't hurt much - did you know that the common flu kills many thousands every year? More people died from flu in 2001 in the USA than from the 9/11 terror attacks.

    But when swine flu shows up, or bird flu, or whatever this years influenza variant is, that is frontpage news.

    Why should computer viruses be any different?

  • by Virtually Sane (1168935) on Friday May 08, 2009 @03:54AM (#27873399)

    The things Microsoft will do to make you upgrade to Vista :)

  • by Speed Pour (1051122) on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:12AM (#27873525)
    There's at least one other reason that the botnet holder may have opted to kill it....If he downloaded something that gave him a reason to freak out. Imagine a scenario where you're looking through some stolen data and realize you just picked up information about a government run weapons facility or assassination plans. The dumbest thing you could do is leave tracks, but since that's already been done, you might as well try to destroy your tracks and hope nobody notices.

    On a side node, between the semi-bogus slashdot headline and the wildly sensationalized article, which is also misleading on at least a couple of points, there's surprisingly little news here. If more accurate information was in that article, it might be different.
  • by steveha (103154) on Friday May 08, 2009 @04:16AM (#27873547) Homepage

    The summary and TFA are rather light on the details I wanted. Here's what you need to know about Zeus:

    It's a Trojan that takes over Windows computers. It is being spread through phishing tricks. It is designed to be easy to use, so script kiddies can just pay US$700 to get the Zeus kit and start building botnets to steal data such as credit card numbers.

    http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/news/article/0,289142,sid14_gci1310679,00.html [techtarget.com]

    One feature of Zeus is the "kos" command, for "kill operating system". This wipes out the Windows Registry and the OS files. Usually, black hat hackers don't want to kill systems they 0wn, but recently Roman Hüssy saw a whole botnet get the kos command. TFA listed three possible reasons for this: 0) rival black hat hackers might have gained enough control of a botnet to issue the kos command, to deny the botnet to its 0wners; 1) the hackers might have issued the kos command by mistake or due to incompetence; or 2) the hackers issued the kos to cover their tracks, and give them more time to use stolen data.

    That last theory makes some sense to me. If the system is still intact, the owner of the system may figure out that his system was 0wned. The kos will wipe out the evidence of Zeus as well as the OS, so all the owner really knows is that Windows really crashed hard this time.

    steveha

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!

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