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Friday, August 15, 2003

It's the end of the world as we know it

It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it.
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.
- REM
You've all probably become aware of the MSBlaster virus. Interesting thing is, it's not a virus, but more of a worm, worming it's way around the internet.

It's a program designed to take advantage of a Windows (NT, 2000, XP, 2003) flaw and scan for an open port on the internet and then send itself to the computers that it finds with those open ports. It does this via the internet, and doesn't involve any downloaded files via web pages or email. If it was written correctly, it wouldn't have become obvious, as part of the flaw of the program is that it causes a 'Remote Call Procedure' error and the PC then gives you 60 seconds to save any programs before restarting itself. This only occurs while the PC is connected to the internet.

A firewall, which protects open ports, prevents the MSBlaster from being effective.

Four days ago, I was the first person to bring this issue to Computerland's attention, and on that same day, many of our clients became affected by it, suffering widespread disruption. Particularly when servers became affected by this, and as a result, all the user computers on the network were also affected. Not infected, as it didn't actually infect them. But the servers spontaneously rebooting certainly affected all the computers connected via the network to those servers.

Computerland was fine.

This was because Microsoft became aware of this flaw in July, and on July 16 released a Security Update to patch computers from being affected by it.

My own laptop at home is always up to date with security updates from Microsoft and it has a firewall, so I haven't been affected either.

But this has brought to light some serious policy flaws in the IT departments of many companies around the country - and the world. They've all had the opportunity to patch their systems and protect themselves. But noooooo... they've been slack.

At the cost of massive disruption, viruses and worms help us to improve our computer security, and hopefully prevent things like this happening in future.

I came to work today to find someone taking a break. As she stepped into the elevator that I was walking out of, she said, "Welcome to chaos."

I raised my eyebrows, and looked into the room that I work in, and everyone was running around like blue-arsed flies (an Australian saying... blue-arsed flies are known for frantically flying around) or having cups of tea or coffee, and there were groups gathered around chatting. No one was on the phone, except managers on cellphones.

Computerland was infected by a virus overnight (at this point I'm uncertain if it was the MSBlaster worm or a different virus) which brought down our network and the phones. Because the network was down - including the corporate firewall - some PC's became affected by MSBlaster (until the proxy server fell over as well, so there wasn't any internet access), so some serious patching was applied to fix the computers.

Between 9:30am and just after 1pm, everything was unavailable, except for brief moments of testing, and then they'd fall over again. However, everything is back to normal now.

Also at 9:30am, we first heard about all of New York City and a number of other cities in north-east America suffering a complete power outage.

Along with our own crisis, and America's, the song "It's the end of the world as we know it" was sung by a few people.

It's been an interesting morning....

(Note: it seems the power outage was caused by a lightning strike on a power station. Question: if a terrorist strike causes an explosion and major power outage, how easy would it be to ensure calm is maintained by saying it's a natural occurrence? Too easy, if you ask me. They alert to potential terrorist activity, and then as soon as something happens, the first thing they say is it's due to natural causes. I wonder if the story will change over the next few days... I also think about Matrix Reloaded, and the major power outage they created in order to finish part of their attack against the Matrix...)

Posted on 8/15/2003 04:03:00 PM Backlinks


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