March 30, 2009 By Corey McKenna
The Conficker worm, which has infected as many as 15 million computers according to some estimates, may do any number of things come Wednesday. Conficker-infected machines could be used for sending spam, logging keystrokes, or launching denial of service (DoS) attacks. But security experts are not predicting any widespread damage. The greatest impact they say the worm may have is to slow networks to a crawl as copies of the worm in infected machines search a list of 50,000 domain names for instructions indicating what to do next.
According to the United States Cyber Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) the worm can infect Microsoft Windows systems from thumb drives, network share drives, or directly across a corporate network if network servers are not protected by Microsoft's MS08-067 patch.
The US-CERT has developed a tool that can help state and local governments detect and remove the Conficker/Downadup worm from their computer systems. Developed by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), the tool is available to state partners through the Government Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (GFIRST) portal.
Experts briefed state and local CIOs and chief information security officers today, the the Department of Homeland Security said in a press release. "While tools have existed for individual users, this is the only free tool - and the most comprehensive one - available for enterprises like federal and state government ... to determine the extent to which their systems are infected by this worm," said Mischel Kwon, US-CERT director.
US-CERT recommends that Windows users apply Microsoft security patch MS08-067 (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/Bulletin/MS08-067.mspx) as quickly as possible to help protect themselves from the worm. This security patch, released in October 2008, is designed to protect against a vulnerability that, if exploited, could enable an attacker to remotely take control of an infected system and install additional malicious software.
US-CERT advised home users that the presence of the worm may be detected if users are unable to connect to their security solution's Web site or if they are unable to download free detection/removal tools.