Worm not linked to attacks

CERT/CC advisory

A new worm making its way around networks across the United States has no connection to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, despite the fact that it hit exactly one week after the attacks, according to Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University started seeing signs of the worm, called "W32.Nimda," on the morning of Sept. 18 in the form of a "massive increase in scanning" directed at the port used by all Internet traffic on networks. Nimda is the backwards spelling of "admin," a common shortening of the system administrator title.

Antivirus vendors followed quickly with analysis showing that one of the ways the worm spreads is through e-mail messages with the attachment "readme.exe." It exploits the same vulnerability in Web servers running Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Information Server as was used by the Code Red worm in July.

The worm spread quickly Sept. 18 and caused many network traffic disruptions as it attempted to penetrate IIS servers worldwide.

Some analysts thought it might be connected to the terrorist attacks because of a Sept. 17 advisory from the National Infrastructure Protection Center at the FBI. The NIPC advisory warned about an expected increase in distributed denial-of-service attacks. Such attacks can cut off access to Web sites by flooding the server with traffic from infected systems. The NIPC issued the advisory because of comments from a group of hackers who said they were responding to the Sept. 11 attacks.

But in a news briefing Sept. 18, Ashcroft said that "there is no evidence at this time which links this infection to the terrorist attacks of last week," according to Reuters.

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