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.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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

Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

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.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?