Global business warned to protect against Code Red

Government organisations in the United States are warning businesses worldwide to make urgent moves to prevent the spread of the "Code Red" worm.

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By  Robin Duff Published  July 31, 2001

Government organisations in the United States have taken the unprecedented step of warning businesses worldwide to make urgent moves to protect themselves against a virus which has been wreaking havoc for the past month.

The “Code Red” worm has infected hundreds of thousands of servers worldwide over the last month, in addition to launching a massive denial of service (DOS) attack on the US government’s official White House website. The worm has profited from a flaw in Microsoft’s Internet Information Server (IIS).

“Because it has been analysed and dissected so much, it’s very easy to go out and create variations on this worm,” said Christoper Klaus of Internet Security Systems. “Not only is there a more effective propagation algorithm, but it would not be hard for a criminal to do other damage. It would be pretty easy to send it somewhere other than whitehouse.gov, for example.”

Guarding against the worm is easy enough: you install a patch from Microsoft which stops any malicious programme from taking advantage of the flaw. As Code Red lives in the server’s physical memory rather than a permanent storage element, rebooting will get rid of it. The software patch then prevents against further infection.

Microsoft believes that up to 6 million servers may well be at risk.

The following is an update sent out by US-government organisation, the CERT Coordination Centre, which studies Internet security vulnerabilities, handles computer security incidents and publishes a variety of security alerts.

Summary
The Code Red Worm and mutations of the worm pose a continued and serious threat to Internet users. Immediate action is required to combat this threat. Users who have deployed software that is vulnerable to the worm (Microsoft IIS Versions 4.0 and 5.0) must install, if they have not done so already, a vital security patch.

How big is the problem?
On July 19, the Code Red worm infected more than 250,000 systems in just 9 hours. The worm scans the Internet, identifies vulnerable systems, and infects these systems by installing itself. Each newly installed worm joins all the others causing the rate of scanning to grow rapidly. This uncontrolled growth in scanning directly decreases the speed of the Internet and can cause sporadic but widespread outages among all types of systems. Code Red is likely to start spreading again on July 31st, 2001 and has mutated so that it may be even more dangerous. This spread has the potential to disrupt business and personal use of the Internet for applications such as electronic commerce, email and entertainment.

Who must act?
Every organization or person who has Windows NT or Windows 2000 systems AND the IIS web server software may be vulnerable. IIS is installed automatically for many applications. If you are not certain, follow the instructions attached to determine whether you are running IIS 4.0 or 5.0. If you are using Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows Me, there is no action that you need to take in response to this alert.

What to do if you are vulnerable?
a. To rid your machine of the current worm, reboot your computer.
b. To protect your system from re-infection: install Microsoft’s patch for the Code Red vulnerability problem:

Windows NT version 4.0

Windows 2000 Professional, Server and Advanced Server

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