By Ellen Messmer
ORLANDO - If your system gets infiltrated by a rootkit, you might as
well just "waste the system entirely," a Microsoft official told
fellow security professionals last week at the annual InfoSec
Microsoft's Mike Danseglio, program manager in the company's security
solutions group, was among a host of security experts from big-name
companies who swapped advice about protecting networks with 1,700
According to Danseglio, the hacker rootkit is "probably the nastiest
piece of malware you'll get," because it is designed to hide unwanted
files - or any sign a computer has been compromised - stealthily.
Microsoft dedicates four staffers to analyze rootkit samples found in
customer computers or on the Internet. In his presentation, Danseglio
offered a list of the most-wanted rootkits (see graphic), adding that
90% of what Microsoft finds relates to Hacker Defender, a rootkit from
the Czech Republic-based programmer who calls himself Holy Father. The
programmer charges several hundred dollars to make Gold versions of
his basic rootkit.
Writing rootkits isn't a crime, but using them to hide code in a
computer that's been hacked by other means is, Danseglio said. Holy
Father last month indicated he's retiring from his Web site business,
leading some to speculate that he's been hired for some purpose
According to Danseglio, rootkits have been embedded in many networks,
with college campuses especially hard-hit. The University of
Washington has become notorious for its students using rootkits to
hide pornography and music on the university's servers, he said.
Danseglio offered a list of tools, including a few from Microsoft,
that can detect rootkits. But he said there are no simple ways to
address the menace. "There are no rootkit-resistant operating
systems," Danseglio said.
Kerry Anderson, a Fidelity Investment Brokerage vice president in the
information security group, spoke on the topic of setting up a
computer forensics program to tackle crime, including child
pornography, terrorism and financial fraud.
A company's first priority should be establishing a policy and
internal training for auditing and investigating suspected computer
crime, coordinating among the legal, human resources and IT
departments, she said.
She advised extending that policy to include working with outsourcing
providers, vendors and business partners to ascertain their
computer-investigation procedures and get the right to audit and
monitor their computers if necessary. "Our contracts today are
requiring the right to do risk assessment and visitation audits," she
The insider threat is a top concern at State Street, which manages
more than $10 trillion in assets. State Street Senior Technology
Officer Doug Sweetman said securities laws require the firm to conduct
background checks on employees and prospective employees.
But these days, that might go beyond a criminal-history check and
include scouring the Web to find blogs an applicant has written or
evidence of a gambling habit or visiting hacker sites - all of which
might raise a red flag. "I don't feel any restrictions going after
your blog or pulling all these data together," he said.
One headache at State Street is the freeware that employees download
and the company wants to remove as a potential security risk. Google
Desktop 3.0 search software is among the programs State Street watches
out for: "It allows for file-sharing and takes the file up to the
Google complex," Sweetman said.
"You've got to think about where that file is when Google indexes
content," he said.
Microsoft's most-wanted list
Rootkits that hide in Windows:
* Hacker Defender
* NT Rootkit
Tools that can detect rootkits:
* PatchFinder2 and Klister/Flister, proof-of-concept tools from Polish
researcher Joanna Rutkoska
* RootkitRevealer from Sysinternals
* Blacklight from F-Secure
* Microsoft File Checksum Integrity Environment
* Bootable Antivirus & Recovery Tools from Alwil Software
* Knoppix Security Tools Distribution (open source)
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