Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

10/31/2011

The Worst Kind of Cross-Platform Porting

Filed under: Apple,Linux,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:58 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

Hackers are porting Linux viruses (virii ?) to OS X.

Last week Monday, ZDNet reported that hackers have ported code for a trojan from Linux to Apple’s OS X.  For those of my readers who don’t know what a trojan is I’m referring to a malicious program that opens the door for other, usually even worse, programs to come into the infected operating system, like the Greeks did in the classic stratagem known as the Trojan Horse.  It hasn’t been seen in the wild yet, but apparently the C source code for this has been available for quite some time.

Frankly, I’m surprised that this doesn’t happen more often than it does.  In the old days, virus writers had to really know something because they used assembly to create them.  Now, with Windows and all the other object-oriented programming languages filled with bloated libraries of programming calls, along with the availability of existing code on the internet, they hardly have to know anything to write fairly nasty malware.  And, as I’ve mentioned before, as Apple laptops become more popular, more malware will start to show up there.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before they figure out how to infect iPads and iPhones, too, if they haven’t already.

I hate people like this.
I spent most of my day today cleaning a malware infection off a machine.  This little bugger had not only disabled the Windows Task Manager, which is pretty common these days, but it also cleaned out the Start Menu, including all the built-in things like the link to Control Panel and My Documents and all those things on the right side of the Windows XP default Start Menu.  But, it also flagged most of the drive as Hidden and System, making it even more difficult to load the software I used to clean it.  I had to go into Safe Mode just to get the system clean enough to restart into Safe Mode with Networking so I could update Malwarebytes, which is what I eventually used to get rid of the beastie.   (I used Spybot Search and Destroy to keep the malware from loading to make the machine useable with networking support so I could update Malwarebytes, incidentally.)
So, yeah, these slimeballs keep me in a job, but, really, I’d appreciate it if they stopped helping me stay employed.  I promise I can find plenty of other things to do!

So, look lively out there people!  Be suspicious of what you download and click on!

UPDATE:  Apparently, this has been found out in the wild now.  And, according to TechWorld, it has a purpose; to use your system to generate BitCoins for it’s evil masters.  Very clever.  Nasty, but, still, very clever.

8/1/2011

No More Mac Malware?

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:01 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I hope so!

And, by that I mean, I hope all that Mac Malware we heard about a couple weeks ago is gone.
Now, I know several Mac fanboy blogs linked to the note I put up about the Mac malware some time back thought I was going out of my way to bash Apple, but, honestly, nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, I hadn’t given it another thought until Ed Bott wrote “Where did all the Mac malware go?”  I threw the original story out there as a warning to all the Apple users who think the Mac and OS X is entirely free from any malware and utterly safe.  That’s just not true.  It is, I have to admit, much safer, in general, than Windows.  There are a couple reasons for that, but, mostly, it’s because of market share and how Apple does, well, everything.

So, that last explosion of malware may be the only shot you hear fired.  At least, for a while.
Frankly, I hope so.  And, I hope that it put enough scare into people that they take security seriously anyway.  As Apple’s market share grows, their products will all become a more appealing target for hackers and crackers.  Though I hope to be proven wrong, I suspect that there is malware being written to attack Macs and, possibly, iPhones and iPads.   In fact, that malware may be already written and just waiting for the right infection vector.  Maybe.

Maybe I’m just a bit cynical and I’m waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.
For years, Apple fanboys have told people that Macs were completely virus free and were more secure by their very nature.  Sadly, that’s not true.  We’ve heard the first shots fired in a new skirmish in the secret war for desktops of all kinds.  It’s big business.  I don’ t think this is the last we’ve heard about Mac malware.
But, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe Apple has closed that hole and all the other holes, too.  Maybe the Macs are all safe and that’s why we haven’t heard about that malware recently.
Maybe.

But, can you afford to take the chance?

5/29/2011

DNS Redirect Attack

Filed under: Geek Work,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Horse which is around lunchtime or 12:34 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

I’m seeing traffic about this, so I thought I’d write up what I found.

I tweeted about a strange DNS-based network/malware attack that I saw on Friday, but, at the time, I didn’t see any interest, so I didn’t go into any real details.  Besides, I may be a hardcore geek, but I do have a life and was going out.  But, now, I’m seeing search engine traffic hitting my blog apparently looking for details, so I thought I’d describe the attack, as I saw it.

First of all, let me mention that I’ve seen a higher-than-usual occurrence of malware infections the past couple of weeks.  I mean, it’s a hazard of my business that, sooner or later, people are going to get infected, either through bad behavior or by accident, but the past three weeks or so I’ve seen way more problems like that than is even remotely normal.  So, bearing that in mind, I’ve been on a kind of high-alert status looking for any malware problems, but this was something new.

It started with someone from another location, who’s on a totally, physically separate network which uses a different internet service provider to connect to the Internet, calling me with a problem.  It was, apparently, a recurrence of a virus he had previously that we cleaned.  He described being taken to a webpage that featured a maroon graphic background with a white icon of a policeman holding up his hand to indicate “stop”.  The text on the page gave a message that said the user’s browser was not the correct version to access the page and that an upgrade was required.  Helpfully, it provided a button to press to receive the “upgrade”.  Obviously, the “upgrade” was an infection.  (You can see an example of the graphic here.)  Thankfully, I trained my users well enough to be suspicious of these kinds of things and no one who reported this actually clicked on it.

About the same time this happened, I noticed that my iPhone wasn’t connecting to the wifi hotspot I have setup in my office.  I checked the configuration and noticed that the DNS servers listed were wrong.  In fact, they’d all been replaced with a single DNS server; 188.229.88.7  Obviously, that seemed suspicious to me, so I opened a command prompt on my PC and did a tracert to see if I could figure out where this server was and, from that, why it had become the default DNS server on part of my network, despite my having very carefully configured totally different DNS servers that I knew were safe.  It looked like the tracert results showed me a network path that led out of the country somewhere, which was, to me, very suspicious.

Before I could really pursue that, though, I got another call from a user at my location reporting the exact same error message and graphic, but going to a totally different website! I went to his computer and checked the IP configuration and found that his DNS servers had been replaced by the rogue server as well.  I refreshed his network config, several times actually, and the DNS servers reset, but, when I thought to check some other people in the same area of the building, his configuration set itself back to the rogue DNS server!  So, I reset the local network equipment to clear the DNS cache, and whatever other caches may have gotten poisoned by this attack, and the problem seemed to go away.  Unfortunately, whatever had caused the compromise was still active and seemed to poison the DNS cache and the DNS configuration again.  It did seem sporadic, though, as if the ISP was trying to correct the issue at their end.

As far as I can tell, the attack actually seemed to be network-based in some way.
At least, I couldn’t find any computer on my network that was infected with anything that AVG, Norton Anti-virus, or Malware Bytes could find.  It is, I suppose, possible, that this attack was so new that no of those programs had an updated detection pattern for it, but, based on the lack of detection, and the fact that it happened on two physically separate networks almost simultaneously, leads me to believe that this was a network-based attack.  I suspect that an ARP cache or DNS cache or something similar was attacked and compromised on a major network router somewhere.  Possibly one of the edge routers at a trans-continental connection somewhere.  From the tracert results I had, it looked like it was the East Coast somewhere, leading to Europe via London to France, though I could be wrong.  It’s possible that was a blind alley meant to throw researchers off the trail in some way.
Also, as of this writing the rogue DNS server seems to be out of commission, though that might change, too.

The Internet is a wild and wooly place, ladies and gents, and you can’t always count on your friendly, neighborhood Network Geek to watch over you and keep you safe!  So, be careful out there!
(And, if you’re a fellow professional who’s seen this, too, leave me comments and tell me what you found!)
UPDATE: Looks like the server is still active, but my ISP has blocked DNS traffic to it, to fix the problem.
Also?  I hate the bastards that do these things.  I hate every last one of the little rat bastards!

UPDATE/FOLLOW-UP: So, it seems like a lot of people have been effected by this problem!
Check the comments for what other folks did and tools they might suggest to help with the problem.  Frankly, I wish I’d had known about those tools when I started my day!  Yes, I was *totally* wrong when I said it looked like it was coming in from outside the routers.  It was, in fact, *several* PCs that were infected with whatever it was.  I found it, much like at least one commenter, by checking the results of “ipconfig /all” in a command prompt.  I noticed that the DHCP server listed in the config was NOT my actual DHCP server!  So, as I went from machine to machine, I saw several PCs that kept coming up as DHCP servers.  I used Malware Bytes to scan the infected PCs and it seemed to clean them off.  At least, for now.  I’m not sure what I’ll find in the morning.
Apparently, Friday, when it looked like the problem was getting cleaned up, it was really just people shutting their workstations down early for the long weekend.
In any case, as at least one commenter has mentioned, it looks like updates for the various scanners should be coming out this week, so keep updating your antivirus and antispyware programs and scan your networks!  Well, scan them more completely and carefully than you already have.
And, as always, if you have any new information or suggestions for tools to clear up the issue, please, leave them in the comments!

5/26/2011

Mac Malware News Update

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:26 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Good news!

First, there are things you can do to protect yourself from this new Mac malware:
Start by disabling the automatic opening of downloaded files.  The world has changed for you Mac users and you simply can’t trust just any download any more.  Welcome to the world that Windows users have lived in for years and years.
Also, don’t let things install on your machine unless you’ve gone out looking for them!  Again, don’t trust anything that looks like an automatic update or a “free” program that wants to install automatically, especially if you haven’t been searching for any thing!
Seriously, you can’t trust people on the Internet.  I know this may come as a shock to the Hippie, “free-love” sort of people Mac users think themselves to generally be, but, yeah, not everyone on the Internet has your best interests at heart.  Well, except me.  You can trust me.  Honest.

Secondly, in a “few days” Apple will allegedly put out an update to make you safe again.
At least, that’s what they’re saying.  No definite deadline on that, though, so be careful and make sure to check your updates regularly!  Staying up to date on patches is one of the better ways to help prevent an infection.  Also, if you haven’t already, please, consider getting an anti-virus program for your Mac.  OS X is a growing target for hackers as the installed user-base grows, so, sooner or later, you’ll see more of these little nasties coming your way.  Your platform’s growing popularity will make it a growing target!  So, before it’s too late and you’re asking your friendly, neighborhood network geek for help in cleaning up the mess, install an anti-virus to prevent the mess in the first place.  The computer you save may be your own!

5/19/2011

Mac Malware

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 7:03 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Gibbous

I told you Macs weren’t safe!

Does anyone listen to me?  No.  Well, hardly ever.
I’m sure you’ve seen the news by now that there are growing numbers of Mac malware attacks.  In fact, Apple Care, the official Apple customer service division, has reported a staggering jump in the number of malware related calls they received in just the past several weeks.  Apparently, according to the interview, it’s gotten to be quite a large problem in just that short amount of time.  They estimate that, now, up to 50% of all calls they get are related in some way to a malware attack on an Apple product.  The indication from the article is that everything is focused on Mac OS X machines, but, with larger market share comes a bigger prize for hackers, so don’t be surprised if iPhones and iPads and even iPods are attacked next!
Of course, what makes matters worse is that, allegedly, Apple Care representatives are being told not to help with malware attacks!  So, all that safety you thought you were buying with Mac?  Apparently, not the best investment.  Of course, security through obscurity never is.

So far, the threat seems to be confined to a single, aggressive bit of malware called MacDefender.  Go to the link and you’ll see a screenshot of what it looks like when it tries to install.  It looks just like a standard Mac program, right from Apple.  This is the same tactic that Windows users have been facing for years.  There’s nothing new here, outside of a new installed base of users who have never had to deal with malware before.  Mac users must look like sheep ready for fleecing to these crooks.  So, if you know Mac users, warn them and spread the word.

For those of you lucky enough to have escaped harm so far, buy and install an antivirus product and keep it up to date.
For those of you who haven’t been lucky, here’s a link to a MacDefender Malware Removal Guide. (Thanks, @joefarace!)

Incidentally, I’ve been talking about this for years.  I knew it would happen eventually, but, hey, who am I?  I mean, besides a front-line grunt that cleans up everyone’s machine when they get infected with digital herpes.  Not being a “pundit” or “respected industry figure” just means that no one takes you seriously, not that we don’t know what we’re talking about.  Because, believe me, I’m not the only network geek in the trenches who saw this coming.  We ALL did, but no one listens.

Like I wrote earlier, get the word out and show Mac users what they might expect before they get hit.
The day you save may be your own!

5/3/2011

Mac OS X Not “Safe”

Filed under: Apple,Geek Work,MicroSoft,News and Current Events,Rotten Apples,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:02 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

The myth of an operating system that is somehow safe from virii or malware is being busted.

No, seriously, I know all you Mac users are always bragging about how much more safe your operating system is because there isn’t any malware written to attack it.  I hear it all the time.  Well, guess what kids?  You’re wrong.  There is at least one OS X Crimeware Kit, in the wild.  And, really, that’s just the one that we’ve seen lately.  If researchers have found one, there are probably others.  And, I know that there are other exploits in the wild, too.  Not as many, sure, but they are out there.  And, thanks to you all bragging about how you’re safe and being all fan-boy about your OS and telling all your friends how great it is, you’re making OS X a more and more attractive target all the time.
Remember, the reason that Windows has so many exploits written for it is because it’s installed on so many computers.  It’s marketing, really.  Where’s the biggest potential market for software?  Right, on the biggest installed base of whatever the popular operating system is.  Now, if you were a virus writer, what would you write a virus to run on?  Same thing.  So, as markets expand, so will the exploits.

Brace yourself.  The world is changing.

12/15/2010

Free Computer Security Tools

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Geek Work,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:25 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous

It’s a dangerous digital world out there!

As I’m sure you’ve seen this year, there have been lots of warnings about increased malicious activity.  Everything from phishing to new malware, the cyber-criminals are really working overtime to make your life a living hell.  There’s plenty you can do to stay safe, like only going to sites that you know and not opening attachments from strangers, or even from friends that don’t normally send you attachments.  But, let’s face it, sometimes, things slip by you.  So, what else can you do, especially when you don’t have money to spend on high-end security tools?

Well, check out eWeek’s list of 9 Free Security Tools to be Thankful for and start using them.  At least make sure you have some kind of anti-virus installed.  There are several suggestions on that list.
And, be careful out there!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
A real hero is someone who's afraid, but does the right thing anyway.

3/19/2010

Free Website Malware Scan

Filed under: Fun Work,Geek Work,The Dark Side — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:00 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

This is only of interest to people who have webservers, but it’s worth writing about.

According to TechRepublic, QualsysGuard Malware Detection is letting you scan your webservers for free.
You have to be able to verify the domain with an e-mail address, so it really is for serious folks who actually have a webserver and verifiable e-mail, but it is free.  No word on how long it will be free, but, for the moment, it is, so go get it!


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