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The Origin Of Sobig (And Its Next Phase) 500

MrZeebo writes "According to this story at, the FBI, along with other authorities, have traced the origin of the Sobig worm. The quick timeline: Apparently, an earlier version of the worm installed a backdoor on a home computer in British Columbia. The creator of the worm used this compromised computer to create a Usenet account with in Phoenix, using a stolen credit card. The worm spread from Usenet, and contained the IP addresses of 20 computers to contact on Friday, and to download an unknown program from those computers. Officials were able to take 19 of these computers offline before the mass-download. However, the 20th computer stayed online, and many copies of the worm were able to get the rogue program. Those that did were merely redirected to a porn site, no damage done. However, now infected computers will continue to try and connect to the other 19 every Friday and Sunday until the worm expires on Sept. 10th." Reader muldoonaz points out this brief Reuters story about the investigation, too.
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The Origin Of Sobig (And Its Next Phase)

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  • by JohnGrahamCumming ( 684871 ) * <> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:09PM (#6774473) Homepage Journal
    Please see the attached file for details.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:12PM (#6774492)
    An expiration date was actually coded into the worm? Seems pretty ironic.
    • by EpsCylonB ( 307640 ) <eps AT epscylonb DOT com> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:21PM (#6774546) Homepage
      Anyone else think this sounds like a bad hollywood plot ?

      We only have 48 hours to shut down 20 randomn computers or the internet is brought to it's knees.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2003 @06:21PM (#6774827)
      Yeah, but what you're missing is that F expires on September 10th, 2003.

      Which means G, the one with the yet more freakin' evil payload, is probably set to go live... ooh, sometime around the 11th... uh-oh.

      Expiring the worm is deliberate, so that different versions of the worm don't interfere with each other much.

      We got lucky, or maybe not: the author realised what was happening, reads the right lists (or spies on them, heh), and decided that he'd rather leave it to the backup payload - the update url was simply a random porn site, one of the decoys, rather than a compromised webpage containing the latest version of his second-stage rootkit/trojan/proxy, Lala.

      So we don't know what his latest surprise would have been. There's been too much attention - he's not going to spring it. He - let's be honest here, they - want a low-profile proxy network, quietly removing the worm after deployment, to anonymise his compromises, do some identity theft, mail some spam (they're EVIL, remember).

      Now, this stolen credit card was almost certainly stolen with the keylogger in the previous trojan cascade of Sobig.E, so... well, that pretty much fucks things up as far as traceability goes, same for the proxy servers that the authors will have been using to cover their tracks.

      Disclaimer: I don't *know* this, but based on what disassembly I've done, what I've read, and previous versions, it seems very, very likely. He might have been planning something else, but I suspect all this publicity derailed his plans for quiet world domination.
      • by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Sunday August 24, 2003 @07:34AM (#6776893) Journal
        If anyone is intersted, here's a "release history" :-P

        SoBig.A []

        - Copies itself over network shares to shared start up folders on other computers.
        - Sends a message to an address on
        - Uses a separate thread to download contents from a specific web site to %windir%\dwn.dat, and later executing it. (later reported to be "Backdoor.Lala")
        - Looks for e-mail addresses to send mails to in the files with these extensions txt, eml, html, htm, dbx, wab.
        - Stores sent messages in the file %Windir%\Sntmls.dat.
        - Uses 4 random subject lines.
        - Uses 4 random attachemenet names.
        - Always uses in the "From" field in the mails sent.
        - Size: 65,536 bytes

        SoBig.B []

        Changes from SoBig.A:

        - Always uses in the "From" field in the mails sent.
        - Uses 9 random subject lines.
        - Uses 9 random attachemenet names.
        - Uses a deactivation date.
        - Attempts to download data from four different GeoCities Web pages. The addresses of these Web pages are stored in various .ini files.
        - Size: 52,898 bytes

        SoBig.C []

        Changes from SoBig.B:

        - Always uses in the "From" field in the mails sent.
        - Uses 7 random subject lines.
        - Uses 8 random attachemenet names.
        - Size: ~ 59 KB

        SoBig.D []

        Changes from SoBig.C:

        - Very few infections noticed (0-49 listed at Symantec). Changes unknown due to low infection rate.

        SoBig.E []

        Changes from SoBig.D:

        - Always uses in the "From" field in the mails sent.
        - Uses 18 random subject lines.
        - Uses 5 random attachemenet names.
        - Size: 82,195 bytes (zip file), 86,528 bytes (executable)
        - Sobig.E can download arbitrary files to infected computers and execute them. The author of the worm has used this functionality to steal confidential system information and to set up spam relay servers on infected computers. This functionality may also be used as a worm self-update feature. Under the correct conditions, Sobig.E attempts to contact one of the list of master servers, which the author of the worm controls. Then, the worm retrieves a URL that it uses to determine where to get the Trojan file, downloads the Trojan file to the local computer, and then executes it. The day of the week must be Monday or Friday. The time of the day must be between 19:00:00 UTC and 23:59:59 UTC. Sobig.E obtains the UTC time through the NTP protocol, by contacting one of several possible servers on port 123/udp (the NTP port). The worm starts the download attempt by sending a probe to port 8998/udp of the master server. Then, the server replies with a URL, where the worm can download the file to execute.
        - Sobig.E opens the following ports: 995/udp, 996/udp, 997/udp, 998/udp, 999/udp, and it listens for any incoming UDP datagrams on these ports. Incoming datagrams are parsed, and upon receiving a datagram with the proper signature, the master server list of the worm may be updated.

        SoBig.F []

        Changes from SoBig.E:

        - Size: about 72,000 bytes
        - Spoofed address (which means that the sender in the "From" field is most likely not the real sender). The worm may also use the address as the sender.
        - The spoofed addresses and the Send To addresses are both taken from the files found on the computer. Also, the worm may use the settings of the infected computer's settings to check for an SMTP server
    • An expiration date was actually coded into the worm? Seems pretty ironic.

      Uh, no.

      The expiration date is there because if you're an evil software writer you don't want people running last month's version of your evil software and competing with the All New and Improved version.

      Just basic economics, really.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:12PM (#6774497)
    How can the operation of code like this be so uncertain when its relatively small and known? I assume the worm doesn't download keys as it runs to unlock further sections of code... How difficult is it to know what exactly these things do when they have a complete binary copy disassembled?
    • this is why (Score:5, Funny)

      by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:33PM (#6774593)
      This is why worms need to be open source. Proprietary worms do a disservice to the worm community!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2003 @06:45PM (#6774963)
      The unknown part is that this virus was set to download and run more code from 20 specific compromised computers mentioned at 3pm yesterday. No one knew what would be in that code until it was actually downloaded. Presumably there was no known remote method to get that code until the deadline either.

      So figuring out what the virus that spread initially did was easy. The only way to figure out what it was going to do next ahead of time was to gain access to one of those 20 computers, and there wasn't a lot of time for that. By blocking 19 of the 20 at their ISPs, at least the next phase was mostly stopped, and turned out to be harmless. But whoever wrote this virus will no doubt learn from this, which was likely the whole point of the exercise, and do something even sneakier, or just bigger (more than 20 hosts), next time. Then eventually when they're confident they can successfully launch an attack of this sort without being blocked, they will launch the REAL attack they've got planned, whatever that is.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 24, 2003 @07:13AM (#6776871)
        Actually, the IP addresses were in the code. They were just encrypted/encoded. The encryption wasn't the best, but because of the amount of un-optimized code, it was difficult to get through the code. There was just so much code to go through.

        I work for an antivirus vendor, and it took me a total of almost 5 hours to decrypt the IP addresses. Once I figured out what the worm needed to decrypt the IP addresses, I ran it in a debugger and changed the registers at the right locations. Then I just ran the worm and got the IP addresses from a network sniffer (if the first IP doesn't respond in X many seconds, the worm tries the next one and so on).

        Sorry for posting anon, but I felt it was better for this post.
  • by KingDaveRa ( 620784 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:12PM (#6774498) Homepage
    These worms amaze and worry me all at once. They amaze because of the massive power they have over networks, PCs and most importantly the people they affect. Worm viruses are up there with Cancer or AIDs as far as some people are concerned. Its major shock-horror time when one happens. That's not to say people should take them lightly though.

    They worry me because of the fact they do all the above. These things are just a little power trip for all concerned. Microsoft's latest idea of forcing Windows Update could stop this - but only with the new versions of windows. We're going to have older versions kicking around for years to come.

    Ultimately, could Microsoft be blamed for these viruses? After all, if they didn't miss these bugs, the viruses wouldn't have a mechanism to run on. But should we blame the guys producing Apache when a flaw is found in that? Personally, I think its unfair to blame MS for all of this.
    • most people dont update even when its forced. they click wait 1 minute every minute and never do. anyway by the time the virus spreads it is too late. I think it is totally fair to blame MS. They wrote bad code that allowed itself to be exploited.
      • Having seen people at work cancel automatic backups because 'its too slow', I don't have a lot of sympathy for some users. People need educating on these things though - keep things patched and we'll all be happy, rather than 'don't patch and the devil will take your children and infect your computer'
    • They amaze because of the massive power they have over networks, PCs and most importantly the people they affect. Worm viruses are up there with Cancer or AIDs as far as some people are concerned.

      How long until we see more organized worms that communicate with each other to achieve a goal (such as cracking an RSA key)? It seems that stealthy worms could already be out there, slowly infultrating and lodging themselves into message handlers or whatnot...

      BTW: Yes, I do think we can blame MS... Their
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:59PM (#6774727)
      Well, if you're just interested in who to blame, then blame the virus/worm writers. They wrote the darn things. But there will always be plenty of virus writers.

      But if you're interested in how to have this kind of thing NOT HAPPEN, which I think is the more important issue for us in the IT field, then the blame falls squarely on microsoft's shoulders.

      Sure, all software has bugs. But Microsoft's software is a little different. It's in 95%+ of the world's computers. They know this, that's their business. Governments use it. Nuclear plants use it. The electric company uses it. Your personal information is stored in it. Your medical history is stored in it. Microsoft has their fingers so deep into businesses around the world.

      Yet they don't do anything particularly special to prevent these worms. They put in the same (or less) effort that the open source folks to find bugs. They sit idly buy when they could easily afford *thousands* of independent code audits. They leave ports open when they could easily ship them closed. They ship a mail client that runs foreign executables. Not off completely, or in a sandbox, or whatever. It is inexcusable that attachments can run as code. This is a bug in the design of the operating system (ANY operating system).

      Microsoft needs to get their head out of the bank vault for about two seconds and realize this is something they *must* do, even if it doesn't mean any new revenue. They have a responsibility to every business out there. Even if you are a FreeBSD + Mac shop you are effected by this.

      It's downright embarassing that a simple bit of code like these worms/viruses can even get out the ethernet port.

      Microsoft, how about innovating a real *solution* to this that *isn't* Palladium? I know it's possible. Have you ever seen qmail or other programs by DJB? Everything is partitioned with simple interfaces between code modules, even if there are bugs, they are ineffective. Do the same in Windows. People will put up with the extra effort eventually, because they are SICK of this shit.

      What really amazes me, is how many people seem to think Microsoft is "doing everything they can". They can do more, a lot more, and they must!
    • I don't get it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Overly Critical Guy ( 663429 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @07:05PM (#6775041)
      Why does Microsoft security and Windows Update keep coming up in this? This is an e-mail worm. People keep running the damned attachment like morons. It's their fault. Hell, my ISP doesn't even let .scr or any other sorts of files get through without specific permission from the user. Outlook won't run executables unless I tell it to.
      • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @08:03PM (#6775229) Journal
        " Why does Microsoft security and Windows Update keep coming up in this? This is an e-mail worm. People keep running the damned attachment like morons. It's their fault. Hell, my ISP doesn't even let .scr or any other sorts of files get through without specific permission from the user. Outlook won't run executables unless I tell it to."

        Your ISP is likely not even running windows or uses a seperate "box" which filters the mail. Alot of people running windows sit behind a linksys router with a built in firewall and laugh about these vulnerabilities. They don't realize they are sitting behind a layer of the simpliest and weakest form a linux security living in that router.

        Outlook won't run executables unless you tell it to... yeah we already had worms that executed automatically in outlook. But wait that fixed that hole.. you sure there aren't any others? All you have to do is click the attachment and that is "telling it to". Me on the other hand, I have to save the file and then change the filesystem permission on the file to executable and THEN and only then AFTER I have explicitly gone out of my way to make the system recognize the file as being executable may I execute the file. Sure I can set my mask so that EVERY file has execute permission by default but why would I? Or I could do it another way, make up a system where I put 3 letter codes at the end of files and the ones with the rights codes are executable... but hey, couldn't anyone name the file that way? oops.

        This boils down to a fundemental flaw in the way the system was designed back in the DOS days. Any change would completely annihilate the existing windows structure and all the code surrounding it. Course they could have... I dunno. Designed the system using ANY of the concepts implemented in ANY OTHER operating system in existance and we wouldn't see this kind of thing today.

        If a user is too stupid to right click on the file and check the box by the execute permission. He's too stupid to be trusted to execute files.
      • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Alien Being ( 18488 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @09:15PM (#6775462)
        "People keep running the damned attachment like morons."

        Why do windows techies insist on packaging things as executables?

        For example, I downloaded an addon track for a Windows racing game I like. It's a single .trk file. But instead of just telling me to put the file in my "tracks" folder, they package it as a damned .exe install "wizard" that's so stupid, it has to ask the user where to install the file.

        Not only that, but they add another layer of bs to the mix by putting the .exe in a zip file. So naturally, some people have to go install winzip, probably break someone's eula, run yet another POS installer.

        Of course users click anything that says OK. That's what you do with windows. Click, click, crash, reboot, click, click, reinstall. It's just the way windows is done, sucky.

    • by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @07:41PM (#6775162) Journal
      Truely it is tragic, and no, if the coders do their best what more can you ask? But Microsoft has continued to produce the most insecure and bug ridden software. If there is a flaw in apache, they are on it in a heartbeat... everything possible is done to prevent security holes.

      The number minor and serious holes in microsoft software which are actively exploited makes it pretty clear. Microsoft basically seems to release software first, and then look for security holes second. Apparently what they are looking for in beta testing is usability bugs that would prevent them from releasing. They are in a hurry to get software to market and leave the looking for holes part for later.

      Apache and other open source software on the other hand tends to run the other way (although anybody can make a project and develop however they please). Look for bugs that cause security problems and system instability first... minor graphic update glitches and such come second.

      In a perfect world both would be ironed out before ever being seen by the public... in the real world I think it's obvious that the open source way is better.

    • What surprises me is that these worms or viruses are not more than nuisances. It would be so easy for the authors to add a lil' code to "format c:" after propagating itself. That would do more damage and cover its tracks.
      • by mec ( 14700 ) <> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @09:39PM (#6775536) Journal
        A formatted computer is a dead computer (and an un-infected computer when it comes back to service, probably with current anti-virus software). An infected computer is a cracker proxy, a spam relay, a DDOS slave.

        Also, for a lot of users, it's more damaging to leak information than to destroy the computer. Think of all the bank, credit card, and brokerage passwords that are available by logging the keystream. And, more relevantly, it's far more profitable to the virus writer to receive leaked information than to know that someone's drive was formatted.
  • Damn... (Score:5, Flamebait)

    by ( 463190 ) * on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:14PM (#6774501) Homepage
    Am I the only one who's a little bummed that this virus may have been stopped dead in it's tracks here? I mean, my inbox got slammed with crap just like everyone else's, but because nearly all of my systems are running relatively [] secure [] operating systems [], I've just kinda chuckle each time another dozen mesages shows up automatically routed to my "Junk/virii" folder.

    It is pure, gleeful schadenfeude for me to think of all the hapless PHBs and MSCSE CIOs who are finally being given a little hint as to just how vulnerable they've left their companies. In the short term yes, many people will be inconvenienced and possibly some critical systems knocked out. But these hapless companies and also the public sector will eventually be forced to learn, and that's ultimately a good thing for all of us.
    • Re: Damn... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:21PM (#6774541)

      > But these hapless companies and also the public sector will eventually be forced to learn, and that's ultimately a good thing for all of us.

      Essentially these have been serving as vaccinations rather than infections, because they're provoking an antibody response that will (should) reduce the impact of a genuinely hostile worm when it finally comes out.

      The vaccination isn't completely effective, since so many people obviously aren't hardening their systems, but some are, and the experts are getting a lot of practice at trapping, analyzing, and defusing the worms on a tight schedule. If this had come out a couple of years ago the response might not have been quick enough to shut the 19 sites down.

      Still waitin' for the big one, though.

    • We all share the Internet, and worms such as this muddy the waters for even those of us who use properly secured systems. Events like this make it plain that best security practices are no longer optional for a stable Internet, and we'd all be better off if some degree of diligence was mandated legally or as a term of service by each ISP before it became possible to connect a system to everybody else's.

      Antiviral software is virtually a must to avoid the myriad of malware that circulates the WWW. People

    • Re:Damn... (Score:3, Informative)

      by kir ( 583 )
      Ummm... don't you mean schadenfreude [] (with an "r")?
  • Correction (Score:5, Interesting)

    by idiotnot ( 302133 ) <> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:17PM (#6774512) Homepage Journal
    Actually, "officials" were only able to take down thirteen of the twenty hosts targed. Six were already down due to MS Blaster.
  • by Rkane ( 465411 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:17PM (#6774514) Homepage Journal
    I want to know what 'officials' are doing about this alleged porn site that the computers are being aimed at. It may very well be just a random site that the author chose, but I would definitely look into the possibility of the site owners being in on this.

    Furthermore, what is the address of this porn site? I think we net admins have a valid right to "research" this threat using the company broadband!
    • If the writer of the worm had gone through all the steps he had to hide the origins, I doubt that that he is the owner of that site.
      The reasons for him linking to it could range from a random site to a paid job, but I doubt the latter. Everyone with half a brain know what they have to face if they get caught and the efforts that have gone into find people in earlier cases. But then again, there are stupid people out there.
  • by mikeophile ( 647318 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:18PM (#6774522)
    How long till the straight marketeers catch on with worms to move hits over their sites?
  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:18PM (#6774525)
    why not put the virus fixing script on the 19 computers, plus some choice words about MS security and the need to patch.

    IN fact why not have the virus download a patch that installs a daemon that periodically installs all MS patches. anyone who is too dumb to deactivate it needs to have it installed. its a self -selecting fix

    • by rusty0101 ( 565565 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:27PM (#6774570) Homepage Journal
      That's one of the perpetual fights going on. The two sides are the administrators who are tired of the fact that there are all too many systems with poor adminstration being done which happen to also be on the internet, vs. the administrators who think that if someone did this to them that they would be out of a job for happening to have poor security. (I happen to believe that those adminstrators who do have this happen to them should be out of a job for poor security, but that's a different matter.)

      I think that the worst case situation would be that a security engineer finds a flaw and uses an exploit of that flaw to patch all systems against the flaw, then announces to Microsoft that the flaw existed, here is the exploit, here is the fix, and oh, by the way, the fix has been applied to nearly every Windows SV on the Net, as well as a few others. The problem then is that Microsoft would have the problem of deciding whether they should sue the security engineer or applaud him.

      I think the concern of Microsoft would be whether the fix is worse than the flaw. Since they did not provide it, their own licences do not apply to the patch, which means that nearly every computer with the code installed would effectively be running unlicenced code which Microsoft might find themselves liable for. Especially if there is a flaw in it.

    • It's NOT too late. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Stephen Samuel ( 106962 ) <samuel@bc g r e> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:32PM (#6774591) Homepage Journal
      The viruses will be 'calling home' every Friday and Sunday for the next few weeks. There's still lots of time to install such scripts.

      If nothing else, put together a script that will log the IPs of machines that connect for further instructions and send a message to their responsible ISP asking them to have the users clean up their system.

      I"ve already got a prototype set of scripts if anybody's intersted.

  • by CGP314 ( 672613 ) <> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:20PM (#6774538) Homepage
    But willing to risk the flames for an answer that is not ten pages long.

    What's the difference between a worm and a virus?
  • CNET Mistake (Score:2, Informative) .gif is a really stupid diagram that isnt correct and is ambiguos probably causing many misconceptions in cnet readers and reuters readers.
  • To Clarify... (Score:5, Informative)

    by NetJunkie ( 56134 ) <jason DOT nash AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:26PM (#6774567)
    It's been a busy week. I see a lot of people confusing the different worms/viruses running around.

    SoBig.F - A virus. Exploits no vulnerability in the OS. It only executes when a user runs the attachment. It sends out emails to everyone in your address book and makes the source another address from your book. It runs its own mail server, so filter port 25 outbound.

    Blaster - A worm. This exploits the Windows RPC bug and self propogates to any unpatched system.

    Welchia/Nachi - A worm. Also exploits the Windows RPC bug and attempts to clean machines infected by Blaster. Unfortunately, it tries to find other systems by doing random pings which can saturate a network.

  • Idiots. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cperciva ( 102828 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:26PM (#6774568) Homepage
    Come on, if you're going to write a worm, do it right.

    Don't use 20 predetermined machines from which to fetch updates; generate an unstructured network while you're spreading (remember who infected you, and trade connections randomly).

    Don't fetch and install any updates provided to you; use RSA signatures to verify that they are legitimate.

    Don't use canned, easy to filter, subject lines in your email messages; borrow subject lines from your host's mail spool (optionally, do so with only a small probability -- let evolution determine which subject lines are the most effective).

    In short: If you're going to release some software which you want to see on millions of machines around the world, try not to embarrass yourself.
    • Re:Idiots. (Score:4, Funny)

      by MyHair ( 589485 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:36PM (#6774612) Journal
      Edit that slightly and send it to Microsoft:
      Come on, if you're going to write an OS, do it right.

      Don't use 20 predetermined machines from which to fetch updates; generate an unstructured network while you're spreading (remember who sued you, and trade alliances randomly).

      Don't fetch and install any updates provided to you; use RSA signatures to verify that they are legitimate.

      Don't use canned, easy to filter, subject lines in your email messages; borrow subject lines from your host's mail spool (optionally, do so with only a small probability -- let evolution determine which subject lines are the most effective).

      In short: If you're going to release some software which you want to see on millions of machines around the world, try not to embarrass yourself.
    • Re:Idiots. (Score:3, Insightful)

      If anyone is smart enough to write a good virus, chances are they are also smart enough NOT to use it at all and instead prove their worth by doing useful stuff.

    • Re:Idiots. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ewen ( 218843 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @06:33PM (#6774895) Homepage
      Come on, if you're going to write a worm,
      do it right.

      I think it's pretty obvious that this was a test of a few things:

      • It was a test of the encryption of the virus executable to see how hard it would be for anti-virus vendors and law enforcement to decipher it (conclusion: they've nearly got it hard enough; law enforcement still don't know exactly what it does).
      • It was test of how many next-stage sites would be needed in order to ensure that they didn't all get shut down before they were needed (conclusion: 20 is enough (they only shut down 19), 30 would be plenty it seems)
      • It was a test of how quickly it could spread just relying on user gulliability to get it in the door (conclusion: real quick, I've been seeing 1000+ copies (well, attempts) per day from some IPs, and more than 3000 copies (well, attempts) per day in total)

      So next time (and the speculation seems to be next time will be the day after SoBig.F expires on 10 September) will presumably have learnt from the results of these tests.

      Oh, and it wouldn't surprise me if next time is a Warhol Worm []. I'm guessing they've collected up millions of zombies this time around.

      So, yes, this time around it's easy to filter, and it's really only the useless virus notification and other bounce backs which are annoying.

      Please do not send virus notifications for any worm or virus which is known to forge email addresses.

      But don't expect it to be so easy next time.


    • Re:Idiots. (Score:3, Informative)

      by mabu ( 178417 )
      This is yet more evidence that the virus originates from the spam tech community as opposed to the P2P or computer programmer/utility community. It's main level of sophistication primarily involves rapid distribution, and has a very SPAM-like pathology of directing traffic to fixed points on the Internet. This is exactly what UCE does.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:27PM (#6774571)
    I don't have any friends so I don't really get any e-mail.
  • by mumblestheclown ( 569987 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:27PM (#6774572)
    I am so glad this topic came up, because it gives me a chance to propose my pet theory.

    As i understand it, SoBig was written by some spammers (this according to something I read a few days ago). If this is true, it only reinforces my belief that the Sobig worm was written for the purpose of weakening Bayesian filtering schemes for spam email, thus making it easier for spammers to send spam mail in the future.


    Simple. you are getting sobig emails apparently (but probably not really) from people who you may ordinaly receive ham from. If you (as many of you will) flag the SoBig messages as spam, your bayesian filter will remember that spam comes from and lo and behond false positives increase.

    Think this is ridiculous? I began out of habit flagging my sobig emails as spam before it dawned on my what i was doing. Yes, my filtes caught the sobig, but i did some tests soon to find exactly the behaviour that i described.

    This further underscores the FACT that spam is a SOCIAL, not a technological problem. No bullshit, just good legislation.

    I am a small businessperson with a legitimate web based business on the web now for 8 years. Three acounts now receive 4500 spam per day, or roughly the equivalent of one 56k modem whose full time job is to receive spam. While we have followed best practices with email addresses, over 8 years and thouands of customers, these things get around.

    • I'm pretty sure that Bayesian filters -- at least like the one in SpamAssassin -- treat the From: address as merely one token among many, many others that can act as an indicator of {spam|ham}miness. And anyhow, I think attempting to discredit bayesian filters as a way of advancing a spammer's agenda, a little indirect.

      If a spammer was going to use a virus like this to do spammy things that would benefit him, I think he would use it to turn Joe User's computer into an open relay that would get a

    • Not sure this makes sense to me. I am running POPFile and it has been capturing SOBIG from the first reclassification I did and I haven't needed to do any more after that (POPFile seems to think the phrase "program cannot run DOS mode" and PIF attachments are spammy). So even if I did poison the corpus with that person's email address it has had little effect.

      Secondly, because SOBIG includes its own SMTP server the header information in each of the mails will not be the same as the genuine header information from your regular correspondents. So POPFile (and other filters) would still see them as different.

    • At work, the mail is scanned for viruses first, then it is handed off for classification as ham or spam.

      Anyone who bothers to send a virus through a spam filter deserves whatever he gets.
    • I am a small businessperson[...]

      I received an email a few days ago from someone who says that they can help you with this problem...
    • by vondo ( 303621 ) * on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:57PM (#6774719)
      Actually, SoBig mails appear to come from people with one degree of separation from me. People who people I know, know. Even with something like SpamAssassin which has "auto" white/black listing this is unlikely to be a problem since the penalty for sending one bad mail among many is low and very few of the mails I get are coming from addresses I recognize, let alone correspond with.
    • It's no coincedence that spammers are the most technologically advanced when it comes to propagating unwanted data across the Internet.

      I figure some time around 2014 the authorities will identify this connection.
  • effective virus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dd ( 15470 ) * on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:31PM (#6774583) Homepage
    They may eventually catch the morons(s) - it isn't clear from this article, since their _really_ isn't much info, except the interesting stolen creditcard item.

    But one of the lessons to be learned by people with all colours of hats from the sobig.* family is that the interface design of the virus is very effective.

    It is subtle, in that the subject lines of the emails are rather muted. It has no other message than to tell people that the info is in the file, and it may appear to come from someone you know (and might trust). In short, it isn't very 'spam-like'. and of course it has a very effective mail engine.

    I work in a university setting, and I can tell you that having a PHd will not save you from accidentally opening this virus. Email programs should make it _hard_ to open any file that is executable. How many times does it have to be said? Thanks to the internet gods that my users are on linux, and that the secretariat is staffed by savy people.

    I watched this puppy rise from category 'low' to 'high' in a space of 6 hours on on tuesday. I am more than a bit surprised that it
    started at level 'low'; anybody else remember the eariler incarnation when the email appeared to come from ''?
  • by Dark Lord Seth ( 584963 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:35PM (#6774606) Journal

    Which porn site was affected? I need to find out for er... damage control, yeah!

  • Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by duck 'o death ( 597155 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:38PM (#6774626)

    OK, I have a quick question. These worms and virii are hitting a ton of Microsoft vulnerabilities, and that's why they *exist*, but to me it seems like they only succeed because office workers, mom (my mom's comp was hit by Blaster), guy down the street, etc. *don't harden their computers*, or because they can't seem to stop clicking on attachments.

    So if this gets worse and worse, and hypothetically more people start running linux or mac or whatever as their desktop OS (which I think could happen in dribs and drabs now -- a shitload of folks I know HATE microsoft right now), what's to stop them from ignoring system security all over again? You have the whole Lindows run-as-root thing still, for example. I know there aren't nearly as many worms and shit written to exploit non-MS OS's, but that doesn't mean folks won't start, and I'd just like to know what would/could happen, and what exploits would then be available, if they do.

    I'm tired, and cranky, and I love Linux. But I just don't know if I'd trust my mom to run a secure Mandrake box if she can't even do Windows fucking Update.

    • Re:Question (Score:4, Funny)

      by Bin-tec ( 584802 ) <> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @06:10PM (#6774781) Homepage
      So, when will us Mac users going to get some excitement with some viruses? I'm kinda bored about clicking on those links that won't do anything.
    • Re:Question (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hacker ( 14635 )

      "But I just don't know if I'd trust my mom to run a secure Mandrake box if she can't even do Windows fucking Update."

      The difference is (in most cases) that she doesn't HAVE to learn how to secure it. Linux distributions come with almost everything disabled, including the MTA and other unnecessary daemons. You have to explicitly turn them on, or enable their insecure modes to open your system to attack from outside parties.

      How long has Microsoft had the Messenger service enabled by default? What about t

    • Re:Question (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dr00g911 ( 531736 )

      But I just don't know if I'd trust my mom to run a secure Mandrake box if she can't even do Windows fucking Update.

      That's the problem at hand. In order for a computer system to be easy enough for the general populous to use, you HAVE to be able to double-click an attachment to figure out what it is and use it.

      If you think it's hard for your Mom to run windows update, wait until she has to:
      $: chmod 755 ~/downloads/afunscreensaver.pif
      cd downloads
      $: ./afunscreensaver.pif

      in order to see what the hell an a

  • by TyrranzzX ( 617713 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:56PM (#6774716) Journal
    I was hoping there'd be a few more good viruses laying about prepairing to nail other windows systems. Give CEO's a month or two of grief and they'll begin to see it the linux way.

    We'll never know what the hackers true intent was, however. It's suspicious that blaster and the sobig virus were thrown out almost one right after the other. It all may be a distraction. For all we know there could be another virus lurking around infecting machines slowly, 1 by 1 until a doomsday date at which they deliver their payload.
  • by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @05:57PM (#6774722)
    Folks blame Microsoft for their failures to prevent the bugs that allow these virii and worms, and I don't disagree. However, there is a deeper root cause. C and C++ are poor tools for any programming above the level of device driver (and perhaps compiler construction). "Programming without a Net", indeed!! (sorry, couldn't find the original of that quote.)

    Programming in C/C++ is directly equivalent to having to get out of your car to check the lugnuts at every red light. I mean - buffer overflows? Segfaults? Library conflicts? This is the stuff of the Dark Ages!! (with the possible exception of the libraries...) If Microsoft (along with everyone else) worked in an actually productive environment, these types of errors would be impossible in nearly all cases. (Of course, I'm not saying bugs in general would be impossible...)

    I was fortunately able to work entirely without C for the last 10 years or so, and managed to go the entire time without a segfault, and was easily 10 times as productive as I ever have been in C. (Using myself as an example removes any programmer skill issue - one can presume same level, both cases.) This included some large projects, including a complete web-enabled GIS system with live maps and integration with corporate inventory & personnel databases.

    Recently I had to return to the C++ environment, and was astonished at how painful, and inefficient the process is. And, of course, code written for one linux platform had to be modified for another, and then again for Solaris. In a simple 300 line program there is no common version that works on all three platforms, even though all used GCC. So I'm now faced with the prospect of building and testing three versions simultaneously or going through the meta-agony of setting up an autoconf build (tho I admire autoconf greatly - autoconf is arguably a key factor in the success of open source.)

    And the various IDEs (for pretty much any language) are just glorified outliners, not engineering tools and certainly not CAD in any useful sense of the word. It is time for software to become engineering. Imagine designing a nuclear plant entirely using text - no drawings, no CAD, no piping analysis, no dynamic stress analysis. A large programming project has a similar complexity, yet we are still stuck writing prose - this is software literature, not software engineering! CAD has transformed every engineering discipline except one. Why do we insist on remaining stuck in the Dark Ages?
    • I was fortunately able to work entirely without C for the last 10 years or so

      Please note that some of us do not consider getting your VCR to reliably capture every episode of Star Trek to be "programming."

      Yes, let's program in a higher level language so we can inherent all the crappy code libraries of the OS. Let's spend half our lives doing tech support for erroneous systems that we're dependent upon.

      C/C++ can be more portable than any other language. If you're having trouble making it portable, don'

      • by garyebickford ( 222422 ) <> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @07:50PM (#6775195)
        Yes, let's program in a higher level language so we can inherent all the crappy code libraries of the OS. Let's spend half our lives doing tech support for erroneous systems that we're dependent upon.

        My point exactly - All those 'crappy code libraries' are written in C, which means (effectively) that every other language has to support the C libraries - all 4,321 versions. And, surprise!! - we're spending half our lives doing tech support for systems whose errors are Largely due to the problems of C!

        C/C++ can be more portable than any other language. If you're having trouble making it portable, don't blame the language.

        Compiler portability via bootstrapping was, in 1972, C's really big new innovation. Other languages were more portable than C once the compiler was ported, but they were generally not good languages for building compilers (LISP, APL, ALGOL, maybe even FORTRAN come to mind.) That was then, this is now. IIRC it was Dennis Ritchie who described C as a "structure PDP-11 Macro Assembler". Some argue that C's major advantage is its stupidity - almost all the functionality is in the libraries.

        If you haven't had a need to use C before, that's good for you. You're probably not developing applications that need this low level language so don't compare apples to oranges and go back to diddling your non-normalized corporate database.

        (Ad hominem attacks are boring.) As I pointed out, C may have a purpose writing device drivers, although even that is arguable - Burroughs was writing hardware descriptions in (IIRC) Pascal as far back as 1980, and you'll note that Intel doesn't use C to describe the Pentium logic - arguably low level programming. And again, you make my point. Anything higher level than device drivers (kernels? maybe, maybe not) is out of C's problem domain.

        At present the typical labor cost to build and maintain nearly any system is two orders of magnitude larger than the cost of the hardware it runs on. If the loaded cost of a programmer is $100/hour then a program that takes one day to write is more expensive than the processor it will run on, and every minute chasing down a fencepost error costs $1.67 (Pascal and Algol for just two examples, prevented fenceposts as early as 1968. Spending an hour trying to decipher stupid compiler-library mismatches borders on unethical abuse of resources.

        The real question is, why do we still think of programming in terms of language? This shows a presupposition that literature is programming. It may be, but it's certainly not engineering. As long as we're writing prose, we're not doing engineering.

        It is fairly obvious to me that the entire worldview of the software community is presently broken. Grace Hopper et al developed COBOL to allow 'nonprogrammers' to write programs. That was in the late 1950's. What progress has occurred since then? Why aren't we drawing our programs? Why don't we run the graphic model through a dynamic dataflow, bandwidth and timing analysis? Why is it up to us to manually tune the literature to support multiple processors?

        The plain fact is that I've watched the nonprogress of software over the last 20+ years, and it's nearly all a rehash of old stuff. The latest, greatest software engineering discipline as taught at the local university is unchanged from the method I used in 1978. We're designing jets for Boeing, using the software equivalent of a Model T.
        • We agree there are problems, but this IMO has little to do with the development language. C was designed to be low-level. If you don't like it, don't use it, but there have always been alternatives for programmers who aren't obsessive about quality and control...

          You can write crappy programs in any language, and there are crappy libraries in every OS. At least with C if you want to re-invent the wheel you're doing in on a level that affords you the minimal performance and flexibility penalty.
    • I was fortunately able to work entirely without C for the last 10 years or so

      Whoah ! Where people able to understand what you told them ? Like, " 'mon ! hek that web page and ut n' paste the ommon errors !" But that's nothing ! I gave up with all vowels ! (ppl tnd t thnk spk lk n nsct, thgh).
  • by advocate_one ( 662832 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @06:03PM (#6774749)
    some t0sser called Misiko posted a "DSC-00465.jpeg" file into some binary newsgroups on Monday 18th... it was really a *.jpeg.pif, and would have automatically infected any user browsing those groups using outlook express and image preview set on.

    Unfortunately I've since deleted it (It's an offence to knowingly possess viruses in the UK)

    The message reference that it was in is [] but google doesn't archive those groups.

    Perhaps that was it???

    • by indole ( 177514 ) <fluxist&gmail,com> on Saturday August 23, 2003 @06:31PM (#6774882) Homepage
      Although google doesnt archive those groups, they did archive this message [] posted by the virus author in alt.alt.test 9 minutes before the virus was posted elsewhere.

      (You can compare to the message included here [] from easynews)
      • yup... that was him.

        I actually posted a warning reply to the original post but was obviously too late.

        WARNING - that's a virus. Don't download it... - was Re: Great, who's got more?? DSC-00465.jpeg

        On Mon, 18 Aug 2003 19:55:13 +0000, Misiko wrote:

        > DSC-00465.jpeg
        > MZP

        contained the following item:


        do not in any circumstances open the OP if you're using ms-windows and OE
        etc... I'm safe.

        he was relying on people browsing usenet binaries with insecure newsclients... looks like fer

  • by Stormbringer ( 3643 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @06:10PM (#6774785)
    My guess is that the virus-writer, realizing from the online news that his/her precious 20 IP numbers were being decoded and chased down, went around to all of those machines that were still online and switched in that porn-site target, to avoid disclosing further strategy.

    With a lot of luck, maybe forensics on the first few machines taken offline will yield the real download address, and we can see what that clown was really up to.
  • by codepunk ( 167897 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @06:30PM (#6774868)
    He should have had this virus download a copy of the linux kernel from the SCO web site and save it to the system. SCO would have loved this as they could have then sold a Unix Ware license to the entire world. Oh hell we could have even shown that SCO infact distributed the linux kernel to every PC in the world.
  • No damage (Score:5, Funny)

    by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @06:43PM (#6774957) Homepage Journal
    Those that did were merely redirected to a porn site, no damage done.

    No damage done! My dear poor mother got redirected to! The psychiatry bills alone will cost a quarter of a million dollars.
  • by sweet 'n sour ( 595166 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @08:16PM (#6775268)
    How did the FBI get the ip address of the computer that uploaded the virus when the privacy policy for easynews specifically states that is should be impossible for such a thing to happen:

    We do not keep HTTP access logs
    We do not keep NNTP access logs
    We do not use IP addresses to link to personally identifiable information. IP addresses are used for administrative purposes only to ensure the Web site is running smoothly.

    Here's a link to the complete policy: Privacy Policy []
  • by bobthemuse ( 574400 ) on Saturday August 23, 2003 @11:00PM (#6775824)
    If we know the 20 IPs, why not just put a version of the uninstall virus on each one? Modifed to mitigate the other problems it's caused...

Vitamin C deficiency is apauling.