Conficker's makers lose big, expert says

Hackers' work was for nothing as attention mushroomed, argues Symantec exec

The malware makers who crafted Conficker must be extremely disappointed, a security expert said Wednesday, and not because the Internet didn't come crashing down as some of the wildest speculation had predicted.

"All of their work has gone for naught," said Alfred Huger, vice president of development for Symantec Corp.'s security response team, referring to the hackers who created the Conficker worm.

Ironically, it was the extraordinary success of Conficker that made the hackers' work essentially a wasted effort, Huger said. "Most of the work done on Conficker was because of all the attention it got, absolutely," he said, pointing to the drumbeat of coverage since the worm first surfaced in November 2008, and the frenzy that led up to today, when its newest variant started switching to a new communications scheme.

"This is the biggest worm, in terms of press coverage received, since we experienced Code Red," Huger noted. Code Red, which struck Microsoft Corp.'s server software in 2001, slowed networks to a crawl. "And that's great. I think the threat was genuine, and without all the attention, it could have been a big problem."

The anti-Conficker efforts prompted by that attention included the so-called "Conficker Cabal," a consortium of researchers and companies that have tried to disrupt the worm's "phone home" ability. Other researchers, meanwhile, exploited a Conficker flaw to create a scanner that quickly detected infected PCs.

The beginning of the bad news to Conficker's makers was in January, Huger said, when the worm's profile soared as it infected millions of Windows PCs. "The distribution is what got everyone's attention, because it got so big in such a short time," Huger said. "And the fact that it was exceptionally well-written, that was in intriguing to [security] researchers."

Vincent Weafer, another Symantec security response executive, put it succinctly earlier this week. "In reality, the author or authors probably didn't intend for this malware to get as much attention as it has," he said in an e-mail. "Most malware these days is designed to be used for some type of criminal monetary gain, and conducting such criminal acts typically requires stealth measures to be successful." "I think this just fades into the background noise of bot networks," Huger said today. "It's a large botnet, but not the largest."

How large is still unknown. Although estimates of the size of the Conficker-infected pool have ranged from 1 million to 12 million, it's been difficult to pin down the number of computers infected with Conficker.c, the newest variant and the one that sparked the massive coverage leading up to today.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags symantecconficker

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

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?