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How A Security Specialist Fell Victim To Attack

You may reprint or publish this article free of charge as long as the bylines are included.

Original URL (The Web version of the article)

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How A Security Specialist Fell Victim To Attack

Title

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How A Security Specialist Fell Victim To Attack

E-mail Attacks - A Bad Day For Submitting Articles

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These days, I write several pages for our site plus two to three articles per week. The first places these articles are posted are DefendingTheNet.com and CastleCops.com. Several days later, I post these articles on other submission sites. This is standard operating procedure in the world of article submissions.

E-mail Attacks

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For the most part, articles are re-published without you even knowing. You typically find out when someone visits your site from another where the article has been posted. Other times, the site that plans on posting the article e-mails you and asks you to review it before it goes live. Two weeks ago, I received one of these e-mails. Email attack - It was all downhill from there.

To Click Or Not To Click, That Is The Question

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Our systems are protected by state of the art security systems. Our SPAM filter is a hardware device that is nearly 100% effective. It also helps in protecting against Spyware and other malicious code. Our Firewall is similar to those you would find in large corporations. Our Anti-Virus system has served us well and we've not had problems with virus for years. I'm not claiming that our systems are 100% protected as there is no such system at this point in time. However, we are fairly confident in our security systems.

Two weeks ago, I received approximately twenty e-mails requesting the review and approval of Defending The Net articles published on other sites. I thoroughly review the e-mails to make sure they seem legitimate. I review the url's included to make sure they are valid and not redirected to a site that is IP only. The last e-mail I reviewed seemed to be in proper order. When I clicked on the URL to the article, the site failed to load.

Approximately five minutes later, my system slowed to a crawl. I reviewed the running services on the machine and found that the "SYSTEM" process was running at 100% CPU utilization. A thorough review of the system did not reveal anything out of the ordinary. Yet, the machine was barely operating.

After rebooting the system in safe mode and reviewing the event logs, I found the cause of the problem. The event log revealed that the TCP/IP stack repeatedly exceeded the maxim number of connections. I had fell victim to a local machine Denial Of Service attack.

In most cases, an event like this would reveal at least something out of the ordinary; A registry entry, file, or service that should not be present. But not in this case.

The computers local drives were imaged to preserve their current state. The images were then submitted to our Anti-Virus and Firewall vendor research teams. As of today, they have not been able to determine the exact cause of the problem. They do know something malicious is going on, and are looking closely at the TCP/IP stack and system process. Short-term investigation points in the direction of one of these components being modified or corrupted. It's quite possible that a new vulnerability exists and I'm fairly confident they will be able to pinpoint it.

What's The Point

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I've seen just about every type of exploit, vulnerability, and e-mail attack you can think of over the years. Some items we uncover during security assessments would make your jaw drop.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people out there just don't care what kind of problems or damage they cause. It appears as if the point of this recent e-mail attack was nothing more than to cause the recipient grief, to put the target computer out of business for a while. One things for sure, it resulted in a bad day for me. The time I had to put into investigating the situation, and preparing the images for delivery to our vendor, could have been spent working on something productive.

Conclusion

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Because of this event, we have configured a dedicated system who's sole purpose in life is to test potentially harmful url's. It is actually a virtual machine that if attacked, can be configured to its default state within seconds.

I can only imagine the stress and frustration others without technical experience or resources must go through when something like this happens. I receive countless e-mails from our site visitors regarding their concern that they may have been attacked or compromised. I wish I could help them all out directly but that is not always a reality.

What I can do is share my experiences and recommendations. This is one of the primary reasons why I enjoy writing articles as much as a do.

About the author: Darren Miller is an Information Security Consultant with over sixteen years experience. He has written many technology & security articles, some of which have been published in nationally circulated magazines & periodicals. Darren is a staff writer for www.defendingthenet.com and several other e-zines.

Author: Darren Miller