Last Updated: 2009-01-10 16:09:49 UTC
by Lenny Zeltser (Version: 5)
An ISC reader asked us about reports of malware that's locking user accounts. According to several media reports (1, 2), a "virus" has affected computers of the Vancouver School Board (VSB) on January 7. The most noticeable effects of the infection were user accounts getting locked. The district's staff were told not to turn on their computers to curtail the spread of the malware.
VSB seems to consider the worm a simple nuisance. However, the observed lockouts might be a side effect of an infection capable of other threats. A worm might inadvertently an auto-lockout defense when attempting to brute-force passwords. That might be the reason for the denial of service condition observed by VSB.
Though we received no other reports of this infection, its effects are reminiscent of the W32.Downadup worm we described in a December 31 diary. The worm spread by exploiting the RPC vulnerability (MS08-067). It also attempted to brute-force user passwords when connecting to the ADMIN$ share of systems on the local network. However, we have no additional information about the VSB incident, so we cannot confirm whether VSB's infection is, indeed, tied to W32.Downadup.
Update 1: We received a report of another school district experiencing problems of a similar scale. In this case, the user accounts are not being locked out. This worm "adds its own information" under the Windows XP logo during startup. "It then hijacks some processes and continues to spread. Although it seems like an easy clean, according to Symantec, this worm is quite the annoyance." In this district, the worm is being detected as W32.Downadup.
Update 3: Symantec reports that it has "observed an increase in infections relating to W32.Downadup over the holiday period and is urging organizations to apply the patch for Microsoft Windows Server Service RPC Handling Remote Code Execution Vulnerability as soon as possible." See Symantec's note for more details about the new variant.
Security Consulting - Savvis, Inc.
Lenny teaches a SANS course on analyzing malware.