By Sean Michael Kerner
August 9, 2006
In the annals of computer "(in)security," few groups are as well known
as the Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc).
They are now adding a new chapter to their infamous history with the
release of a new malware search engine that enables researchers to
analyze over 31,000 "hostile" files.
It's all part of an effort the cDc calls "offensive computing."
Originally founded in 1984, cDc and its members are well known for a
number of their efforts over the past 22 years.
Perhaps most notably is their Back Orifice application, which debuted
in 1998 as a network backdoor that enabled full remote control of a
system, including process, passwords and file system (essentially a
Back Orifice was updated in 2000 as B02K and is currently maintained
as an open source project on the SourceForge.net code repository.
In cDc's new offensive computing strategy, the group is turning its
skills toward hacking malware.
Part of the effort is the malware search engine, which is geared
toward increasing the knowledge around malware to better improve
detection and removal.
There is also a relationship between the Malware search effort and
that hatched last month by H.D. Moore of Metasploit fame; it uses
Google to find malicious code.
"We use Google from time to time, and we worked with H.D. Moore on his
Google malware search project," Val Smith a cDc member and part of the
offensive computing effort, told internetnews.com. "We provided him
signatures to search on)."
Smith explained that his group has written some code to do auto
analysis of malware.
"People upload it directly to the site, or provide me with archives
over e-mail, and then we load it into our auto analyzer," Smith said.
"Once the analysis is done, that data gets put into the database which
people can search. We have large collections of malware sitting around
waiting to be bulk processed."
Access to the offensive computing malware search requires user
registration, though only a valid e-mail address is required for the
While most of the major AV vendors, including McAfee, Symantec, Panda
Labs, Sophos and others, provide online libraries of vulnerabilities,
there are a few things that offensive computing provides that the
commercial vendors do not.
For one, offensive computing provides downloadable samples of the
malware in question.
It also includes a clear warning to users: "This site contains samples
of live malware. Use at your own risk."
Offensive computing also claims that the analysis is done in an open
manner that yields reproducible results.
The results also detail multiple checksums md5,sha1,sha256, which
should help to further improve identification.
Smith's hope is that his group's effort will challenge the security
community to get more involved in publicly fighting the problem of
"This problem is growing too fast and complex for the traditional
methods to defend against it," Smith said.
"We need to unite resources and knowledge in order to protect our
systems. We have a lot of respect for several AV companies, but it's
time to do more."
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