The Internet Is Falling … Not!

A computer emergency response team is issuing a warning that the Trojan horse has been unleashed and a huge denial of service attack that can take down the entire Internet may be looming. “Ha!” cry informed skeptics.

A computer emergency response team is issuing a warning that the Trojan horse has been unleashed and a huge denial of service attack that can take down the entire Internet may be looming. “Ha!” cry informed skeptics.

Batten down the hatches and hide the women and children. Internet Armageddon is on its way … again.

A recent advisory from the CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie-Mellon University has raised the specter of an impending and massive denial of service attack that “poses a significant threat to Internet sites and the Internet infrastructure.”

CERT’s advisory said that the center is receiving an increasing number of messages reporting the existence of a Trojan horse program that would allow unauthorized users to remotely control the infected target machines.

So the obvious conclusion is that power-crazed crackers are amassing a zombie army that will destroy e-life as we know it, right?

“This is just another case of freakin’ FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) that has attracted the media like flies to a piece of rotting meat,” laughed Cliff Robertson, an open source programmer.

Robertson said it would take a very well-organized and sophisticated attack to bring down the Internet.

“Wasn’t the Net designed to withstand nuclear attack?” Robertson said. “Wasn’t it supposed to provide a conduit for information in the case of a major national emergency? And now it turns out that a few hundred computers with a Trojan on them can pull it all down? Bummer.”

Robertson adds that if someone really wanted to destroy the structure of the Internet, “This isn’t how they’d do it.

“You’d have to be a pretty elite cracker to pull down the Net,” he said. “And if you were that cracker, chances are you’d come up with something better than sneaking a very easily discovered Trojan onto some servers.”

RadWork, a self-described “freelance systems and security investigator,” agrees that this latest warning is probably not a portent that the world is coming to an end.

“Worst case scenario: Maybe they’ll tumble Yahoo again. Or fuss around with eBay. And does it matter a lot if a few of them go down for the day? It’s mean and tacky but in the greater scheme of things, so what?”

“The big commercial sites aren’t the whole of the Internet, you know. It’s not going to affect anyone but the folks who work there, and their investors. It’s not going to trash the entire Internet.”

Robertson and RadWork both say that the reputed Trojan attack is actually the work of script kiddies who are taking over the target machines to run underground chat channels.

“It’s called ‘dosnet,'” RadWork said. “These pirate channels have been around for a while. Basically you use network resources that you don’t own to create an IRC channel. I really believe that’s what is going on here. It’s not a major tragedy in the making -– it’s not a zombie army that will eat the Internet’s brains.”

And both agree that even if the ‘kiddies’ who are installing the Trojan program were to amass a zombie army they wouldn’t know how to direct the campaign.

“Zombie is the right word for it. You’ve got a bunch of brainless dorks staggering around with no real aim or goal in mind. C’mon! What’s next, sacrificing goats every time you upgrade the system? Wave some garlic over your server and get over it,” laughed RadWork.

But Robertson said people shouldn’t totally ignore the threat.

“So “zombie army” is an overstatement. But there is a problem if people can hijack systems so easily. The whole thing points to the fear people have -– they don’t understand computers and networks and so it’s all voodoo to them.”

Both said that they didn’t fault CERT for being cautious. Officials at CERT did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails for comment.

RadWork added that the “real story” behind the furor over cadaver attacks is that there is a patch readily available for the hole that is being exploited.

“If the zombies are gathering on the front lines, then why are so many people aiding and abetting them by not applying security patches?” wondered RadWork.

“Didn’t you folks see the ‘Night of the Living Dead’? The first thing people did was board up the windows and the doors. So why are systems managers leaving their networks wide open to the children of the night?”

Author: Michelle Delio

News Service: Wired News

URL: http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,38844,00.html

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