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Softpanorama Malware Protection Bulletin, 1999

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[Nov. 24, 1999] Another hello from Melissa for the Outlook users ?

It looks like variants of the Melissa virus still can be more or less successful. ZDNet mentioned that Melissa.U, Melissa.V, and VBS.Freelink managed to get some limited distribution. The article itself is not that impressive (see ZDNet News Melissa-like viruses haunt firms), but contains an interesting discussion ;-). A couple of interesting talkbacks:

Name: The Rock Rat

Location: Phoenix

Occupation: Consultant

yes, Leslie, these viri are easy to write, and only complete losers spend time writing them. then there's the hackers, who attempt to portray themselves as doing some kind of service to the computing community by exposing security holes in products; in 15 years, I've only seen one or two that really do this with integrity. the majority are simple punks who can't or won't get real jobs and spend their time breaking into web sites and corporate sites for no real apparent reason. go to and look around. very, very sad.

just because you can (do something malicious) doesn't mean you should. i'd like to have an hour at one of these hackers' home - let's see how secure their home is - where their family eats and sleeps. bet I could break the doors down with no trouble - maybe chuck a few bricks through their windows. that's all they're really doing when they hack someone's web site. losers. punks. some of them are really talented and could use their skills for good. what a waste.

Name: Gergely Hajdu
Location: Budapest, Hungary
Occupation: designer

Rock Rat: losers without real jobs?

You may be wrong. The guy who wrote Melissa got a more than decent job at AT&T. They can be losers or winners, fat or slim, hairy or bald -- the common factor is that they eagerly want a feeling of superiority. They like to say they are the wolves and peaceful computer users the sheep which sounds like a rather Nazi-like attitude.

Name: Jimmy Kuo
Location: Los Angeles
Occupation: AntiVirus Researcher

Leslie, VBS/Freelinks is a virus which first appeared early July. However, an idiot posted the code to alt.comp.virus on Aug. 27 and from that, the virus was copied off the newsgroups and spread.

It is now spreading quite rapidly since late Sept.

If you have AV software in place, please verify if .VBS is being scanned. If not, add it or scan all incoming files.

Jimmy Kuo

(The same guy in the article.)

[Nov. 27, 1999] Understanding Virus Behavior in the Windows NT Environment -- not great but decent

Sendmail kludge for melissa

Might be helpful?
Scott Price - May 04th 2000, 16:59 EST

Here is the original sendmail kludge.

# Kludgey Melissa virus checking routine.
# Just need enough of a pattern to match.
# Instructional note:
# The format for the rule is
# RExactly the thing you want to quote
# No quote marks, no tabs, absolutely nothing in
# parentheses (like this, they're considered comments
# and will be removed before they get to the rules).
# After the exact thing, then a tab, and the $#error.
# Note, the $* matches anything, so it's useful for
# wildcarding. This also scans all messages with
# Subject: headers and invokes a rule, so there is
# a performance hit.

HSubject: $>Check_Subject
D{MPat}Important Message From
D{MMsg}This message may contain the Melissa virus.

R${MPat} $* $#error $: 553 ${MMsg}
RRe: ${MPat} $* $#error $: 553 ${MMsg}

If you put this right before the ILOVEYOU patch, both work. I think it has to do with the "SCheck_Subject" and "HSubject:" lines. I am not very well versed in sendmail configuration, though.

[Aug 18, 1999] Antigen by Fresh Software. Antigen is a program to automatically detect, clean and destroy the BOserver (Back Orifice Server) program for your Win95 machine. Antigen will only clean and detect Back Orifice and BO2k on Win95 and Win98 machines.

[Aug 12, 1999] A white paper on Office 2000 vulnerability to macro
-- Symantec white paper "Microsoft Office 2000 and Security Against Macro Viruses" by Darren Chi. Local copy Reprints/o2secwp.pdf

[July 11, 1999] PC Week: Has Back Orifice gone legit -- new Back Orifice 2000 was released on July 10th. Windows NT and Windows 9x are affected. The program was released as open source and allow 3rd party add-ons. As source is available, malicious modifications can be expected.

[July 3, 1999] CIH disk recovery -- reconstruct drives destroyed by CIH. BTW most motherboards can have their flash memory write-disabled, making them immune to the virus attempt to overwrite flash BIOS memory -- that what customers need to do first. See also BIOS Virus Turns PCs into Paperweights for mass media level discussion about the virus.

[July 3, 1999] Linux Today Rant Mode Equals One Anti-Anti Virus Software == Open Source Software

Why is it that all Windows supporters are Anonymous cowards?
Now, please look at the anti-virus industry. You will see it is making a lot of money under Microsoft reign whether you like it or not! Now would they want to lose their jobs?

Not only Unix can be made secure but also the mainframe OS's. It depends completely upon the system administrator. It's his every-day task and he knows.

Giving this kind of OS's like GNU/Linux or *BSD to the end-user means not only to install the OS in a secure way but also to teach the end-user not to login as root. That's not a real problem because of the simple remote administration possibilities of these OS's.

And in early 1980 we named dos "a lack of an operating system". Guess why :-).

Also, as you might now, the US Army decided to use Sun's solaris and to shun NT for that same reason. Now please, don't tell me the Army are Open Source Zealots or Unix Zealots.

The only thing you need to add to the Computer / OS equation to make it virus prone is put a naive user at the console. When Linux is used by 25,000,000 ex-Windows users, believe me, the naivety will abounds.

[June 18, 1999] Java maven says Windows is uniquely virus susceptible (InfoWorld) - James Gosling is an evangelist so please be skeptical, but there is a substantial advantage of using Unix as it has better "natural" virus protection mechanisms. The problem with both Linux and NT is that executables are not protected against tampering. Both NT Unix needs MD5 checksums for executables ASAP:

[June 17, 1999] An interesting psychological trick in Worm.Explore.Zip. For some strange reason, it seems that the same people who were affected by Melissa are the most likely to download a new work disguised as self-extractable Zip file. Clearly, the authors of both worms are good social engineers.

The worm comes as a Trojan executable attachment masked as self-extracting Zip attachment. The person from which you will get the letter is the person to whom you recently send a letter (work checked for recent unopened mail). The message reads similar to:

Hi ! I received your email and I shall send you a reply ASAP. Till then, take a look at the attached zipped docs. bye.

The message carries an attachment called zipped_files.exe (note the extension -- it's executable). The message may come either unsolicited or as a reply to an e-mail -- the worm use address book in novel modification of the methods established by Melissa --- by trying to reply to all unopened messages. Any mail client can be used to propagate the worm. Once the worm is memory resident it will scan all mapped drives, both local and network shares, and erase all files with the following extensions: *.h, *.c, *.cpp, *.asm, *.doc, *.xls, and *.ppt. Strange mix (especially .asm and .ppt ;-). CERT also reported that it can scan network drives that are not mapped, but available in the Network Neighborhood. The worm tries to propagate itself in the local network by scanning network drives for a WIN.INI file and modifying that file in order to be launched on startup. That means that on Windows NT, the worm will not be launched. But probably Linux would be a safer bet ;-). By now, every major anti-virus vendor has acted on this worm, but at the time the worm appeared existing AV products were pretty much useless.

[June 14, 1999] Wired- Worm Zeroes In On Microsoft -- Wired supports the point of view that Microsoft is a virus friendly company

The latest Internet virus to cause turmoil on desktops around the world highlights a unique security problem: users' dependence on Microsoft products. ...If macros are a security risk, then many customers would rather be without them, said Jim Hurley, managing director of information security at the Aberdeen Group in Boston. The firm's market-research interviews found that users don't think the functionality is worth the risk. "Any 12-year-old who's a computer geek can turn something on and off at will, he said. Since Microsoft's products dominate office desktops, said Hurley, they get targeted. "In their infinite wisdom, they say their users are asking for macro capability." Microsoft's Canadian competitors at Corel aren't worried about the worm -- it doesn't affect WordPerfect. A spokeswoman for the company said she was not aware of any attacks against Corel products. The worm was a source of amusement for Microsoft critic James Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology in Washington. Someone sent him the virus, but it didn't affect his Linux-based machine running WordPerfect. If there were more diversity in the marketplace, he remarked, such disasters wouldn't happen. "If everybody in the world was only growing one kind of corn and some sort of disease wiped it out, then people would go hungry," Love said.

[May 6, 1999] Office 2000 Macro Security -- Microsoft paper. See also HTML variant here

Office 2000 has introduced digital signatures to help users distinguish legitimate code from undesirable and viral code. If you open an Office document and see a macro security warning with digital signature information, you can feel reasonably confident that the person (or corporation) signing the macros wrote them. You can choose to trust all macros signed by this person by checking the Trust all macros from this source checkbox. From then on, Office will enable the macros without showing a security warning for any document with macros signed by this trusted source.

Office 2000 silently disables non-signed macros when the new Office 2000 Security Level feature is set to "High." In fact, the default security setting for Word 2000 is "High." By removing the chance that a user "accidentally" enables a virus-infected document, the high security level helps reduce the spread of macro viruses. If all legitimate macros are digitally signed, then users do not even need to see the security warning without digital signature information.

[March 29, 1999] Melissa -- AV vendors bite dust again -- a lot of users with non "on the fly" protection or outdated versions of AV software (the latter probably constitute the largest segment of users) were affected... See also: