Stopping Conficker with OpenDNS

Conficker is quickly becoming a mainstream news story as April 1 approaches, the date that the worm is programmed to “phone home” for further instructions. It has been discussed in various news outlets, even garnering a primetime spot on 60 Minutes this past weekend. The worm has been a great source of concern for IT execs the past couple of months, though the actual severity is yet to be determined. There are several mitigating factors that are supposed to minimize the chance for compromise, and a number of ways to detect and remove the virus. Another potential weapon against Conficker that should be considered is the use of OpenDNS to block the worm from communicating with command and control servers for further instructions.

In analyzing the virus, engineers have found that Conficker uses an algorithm to determine a number of different domains to contact for further instructions beginning on April 1. The algorithm was used to determine the exact list of domains that would be used. OpenDNS recently added a feature which would block access to these domains: We’ve teamed with Kaspersky Lab to identify those domains, and stop resolving them. This means if you’re using OpenDNS, Conficker will do your network no damage. From a management perspective, this is a much less intensive solution than attempting to block the domains on your local DNS servers and dealing with the overhead involved.

While using OpenDNS might not be feasible for larger enterprises, this is a great solution for SMB’s and home users. I’ve used it personally for some time now; the amount of centralized control available and ease of use makes it extremely attractive. A wealth of reporting features are also available, including one to specifically identify requests to known malware sites (like Conficker). Steps still need to be taken to ensure that Conficker is identified and removed from your network, but this is a good way to ensure that if any instances go undiscovered, they won’t be able to cause further harm.

Related Links:

OpenDNS
In depth analysis of Conficker
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Random Tech-Bits: SSLStrip, TCP Security, DNSSEC, and more…

Random Tech-Bits is a periodic roundup of interesting technology related links & news stories.

Downadup / Conficker and Disabling Autorun

Just a quick heads up related to disabling Autorun to protect against Downadup / Conficker. While the worm continues to spread and receive more media coverage, IT personnel are working to make sure their systems are protected. One of several ways this worm spreads is by taking advantage of the Autorun feature in Windows systems. Disabling this feature via Group Policy is a logical decision, but it turns out it may not actually work like it should.

Disabling Autorun via GPO currently only disables Autoplay on media insert. However, if there is an Autorun.inf file present on a CD, USB, or network drive, the program will still run when double clicking that drive in Windows Explorer. This vulnerability was announced by the U.S. CERT team on January 20, and later updated to provide patch details from Microsoft. Follow the links below for full details on the problem and where to get the patch.

US-CERT Alert
Microsoft KB953252
UPDATE: Microsoft released KB967715 on March 10 to address this autorun problem in all versions of Windows.