Security Corner

Mar 31 2009   12:48AM GMT

What Will Conficker do on April First?

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

No one knows for sure, but we do know that *something* is going to happen on April Fools’ Day. Conficker is a new breed of malware; the people behind it are of exceptional intelligence. They aren’t a crew of script kiddies out to make a quick buck. Whatever Conficker is specifically designed to do, you can bet its actions will be directed toward: 1. Maximizing proliferation of its binaries (survival); 2. Avoiding detection; and, 3. Maximizing profit (or damage).

The worm has been pretty effective at #1, by some estimates having already infected several million PCs. It has done this through exploitation of a Windows vulnerability, MS08-067 that was patched back in October and about which I wrote Will They Ever Learn to Patch? in January. However, it’s possible that those computers in the most concentrated areas of infection–China, Russia, India, Brazil, and Argentina–are impossible to patch because they are running pirated copies of Microsoft Windows software, and Microsoft does not allow updates of any kind to its pirated software. Seems to me this is a self-defeating policy, but I’m just a sensible Geek, not a Microsoft executive.

As for #2, the latest variant has added new anti-detection features. According to Larry Seltzer writing in PCMag.com, “Avoiding detection is a major theme with Conficker.C. It’s not the first malware to try to defend itself in-memory against security software and diagnostic tools, but “C” does a lot of this. For instance, it disables Windows Automatic Updates and the Windows Security Center.”

We’ll find out Wednesday, April 1st, what–if anything–happens with #3. My bet is that it’ll be another Y2K-type event. Then again, who knows?

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