Conficker worm still being tracked, but evidence collection slows

Since the botnet operators abandoned Conficker, it makes it harder to trace them

The notorious malware known as the Conficker worm still infects computers, a sort of wild horse with no rider, but investigators appear no closer to finding its creator.

Also known as "Downandup," Conficker was discovered in November 2008, exploiting a vulnerability in Windows XP that allowed remote file execution when file-sharing was enabled. Microsoft patched it a month later.

A souped-up version of Conficker released that year later targeted the autorun feature in XP and Vista. At its peak, Conficker infected upwards of 7 million computers. Microsoft still ranks Conficker as the second-most prevalent malware family on domain-joined computers, according to figures released earlier this year in its Security Intelligence Report Vol. 13.

Security researchers with the Conficker Working Group (CWG) along with vendors including Microsoft successfully cut off the Conficker's operators from the botnet. The group is still working to try to find Conficker's master, said Jose Nazario, a malware researcher with security vendor Invincea, on the sidelines of the Hack in the Box conference.

The problem is that botnet operators have stayed away from Conficker and not tried to reclaim it, a welcome development but one that leaves researchers with a lack of fresh electronic leads.

"Well, we sort of won in that regard," Nazario said. "They had to walk away from it. On the other hand, if they're not interacting with it, there's no more evidence coming in."

In June 2011, Ukraine's security service, SBU, made several arrests related to a cybercrime ring that defrauded the banking industry of more than US$72 million. The SBU indicated those arrested allegedly said they had used Conficker to spread fake antivirus software, another scam the group was accused of.

But the results of Ukraine's investigation are unclear. Conficker used a private key to sign encrypted updates, and if police found that key on a person's computer, it would represent the needed crucial evidence, Nazario said. But so far it has not come to light.

The CWG is still interacting with sinkhole operators, top-level domain operators and ICANN, Nazario said. The malware itself is on autopilot, taking advantage of vulnerable computers and has proved to be a long-term nuisance.

"It feels like a stalemate," Nazario said. "It feels like we're kind of in a holding pattern but there's still effort that goes into it."

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?