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ARCHIVE: 'Phage List' - Archives (1988 - 1989)
DOCUMENT: phage #403 [some points to make with the media] (1 message, 7542 bytes)
NOTICE: recognises the rights of all third-party works.


From: (Bob Page)
To: phage
Date: Mon 18:03:30 07/11/1988 EST
Subject: some points to make with the media
References: [Thread Prev: 128] [Thread Next: 132] [Message Prev: 127] [Message Next: 404]

A press release would be a good idea, Mel.  My users were all excited
about what they were reading/hearing, all my UUCP neighbors wanted to
know if they should unplug their modems, etc.

I cooked up this report to try and set them straight - it's about 5
pages (one of them is a list of the "common" passwords though).

Constructive comments welcomed - maybe you can use this as a base for
writing a press release as to what really happened.  You phage listers
feel free to quote parts of the report on this list; no need to
include the whole thing as the copyright states.


                     A REPORT ON THE INTERNET WORM

                               Bob Page
                          University of Lowell
                      Computer Science Department

                            November 7, 1988

     [Because of the many misquotes the media have been giving,
     this report is Copyright (c) Bob Page, all rights reserved.
     Permission is granted to republish this ONLY if you republish
     it in its entirety.]

Here's the scoop on the "Internet Worm".  Actually it's not a virus -
a virus is a piece of code that adds itself to other programs,
including operating systems.  It cannot run independently, but rather
requires that its "host" program be run to activate it.  As such, it
has a clear analog to biologic viruses -- those viruses are not
considered live, but they invade host cells and take them over, making
them produce new viruses.

A worm is a program that can run by itself and can propagate a fully
working version of itself to other machines.  As such, what was loosed
on the Internet was clearly a worm.

This data was collected through an emergency mailing list set up by
Gene Spafford at Purdue University, for administrators of major
Internet sites - some of the text is included verbatim from that list.
Mail was heavy since the formation of the list; it continues to be on
Monday afternoon - I get at least 2-3 messages every hour.  It's
possible that some of this information is incomplete, but I thought
you'd like to know what I know so far.

The basic object of the worm is to get a shell on another machine so
it can reproduce further.  There are three ways it attacks: sendmail,
fingerd, and rsh/rexec.


In the sendmail attack, the worm opens a TCP connection to another
machine's sendmail (the SMTP port), invokes debug mode, and sends a
RCPT TO that requests its data be piped through a shell.  That data, a
shell script (first-stage bootstrap) creates a temporary second-stage
bootstrap file called x$$,l1.c (where '$$' is the current process ID).
This is a small (40-line) C program.

The first-stage bootstrap compiles this program with the local cc and
executes it with arguments giving the Internet hostid/socket/password
of where it just came from.  The second-stage bootstrap (the compiled
C program) sucks over two object files, x$$,vax.o and x$$,sun3.o from
the attacking host.  It has an array for 20 file names (presumably for
20 different machines), but only two (vax and sun) were compiled in to
this code.  It then figures out whether it's running under BSD or
SunOS and links the appropriate file against the C library to produce
an executable program called /usr/tmp/sh - so it looks like the Bourne
shell to anyone who looked there.


In the fingerd attack, it tries to infiltrate systems via a bug in
fingerd, the finger daemon.  Apparently this is where most of its
success was (not in sendmail, as was originally reported).  When
fingerd is connected to, it reads its arguments from a pipe, but
doesn't limit how much it reads.  If it reads more than the internal
512-byte buffer allowed, it writes past the end of its stack.  After
the stack is a command to be executed ("/usr/ucb/finger") that
actually does the work.  On a VAX, the worm knew how much further from
the stack it had to clobber to get to this command, which it replaced
with the command "/bin/sh" (the bourne shell).  So instead of the
finger command being executed, a shell was started with no arguments.
Since this is run in the context of the finger daemon, stdin and
stdout are connected to the network socket, and all the files were
sucked over just like the shell that sendmail provided.


The third way it tried to get into systems was via the .rhosts and
/etc/hosts.equiv files to determine 'trusted' hosts where it might be
able to migrate to.  To use the .rhosts feature, it needed to actually
get into people's accounts - since the worm was not running as root
(it was running as daemon) it had to figure out people's passwords.
To do this, it went through the /etc/passwd file, trying to guess
passwords.  It tried combinations of: the username, the last, first,
last+first, nick names (from the GECOS field), and a list of special
"popular" passwords:

aaa	      cornelius	    guntis	  noxious	simon
academia      couscous	    hacker	  nutrition	simple
aerobics      creation	    hamlet	  nyquist	singer
airplane      creosote	    handily	  oceanography	single
albany	      cretin	    happening	  ocelot	smile
albatross     daemon	    harmony	  olivetti	smiles
albert	      dancer	    harold	  olivia	smooch
alex	      daniel	    harvey	  oracle	smother
alexander     danny	    hebrides	  orca		snatch
algebra	      dave	    heinlein	  orwell	snoopy
aliases	      december	    hello	  osiris	soap
alphabet      defoe	    help	  outlaw	socrates
ama	      deluge	    herbert	  oxford	sossina
amorphous     desperate	    hiawatha	  pacific	sparrows
analog	      develop	    hibernia	  painless	spit
anchor	      dieter	    honey	  pakistan	spring
andromache    digital	    horse	  pam		springer
animals	      discovery	    horus	  papers	squires
answer	      disney	    hutchins	  password	strangle
anthropogenic dog	    imbroglio	  patricia	stratford
anvils	      drought	    imperial	  penguin	stuttgart
anything      duncan	    include	  peoria	subway
aria	      eager	    ingres	  percolate	success
ariadne	      easier	    inna	  persimmon	summer
arrow	      edges	    innocuous	  persona	super
arthur	      edinburgh	    irishman	  pete		superstage
athena	      edwin	    isis	  peter		support
atmosphere    edwina	    japan	  philip	supported
aztecs	      egghead	    jessica	  phoenix	surfer
azure	      eiderdown	    jester	  pierre	suzanne
bacchus	      eileen	    jixian	  pizza		swearer
bailey	      einstein	    johnny	  plover	symmetry
banana	      elephant	    joseph	  plymouth	tangerine
bananas	      elizabeth	    joshua	  polynomial	tape
bandit	      ellen	    judith	  pondering	target
banks	      emerald	    juggle	  pork		tarragon
barber	      engine	    julia	  poster	taylor
baritone      engineer	    kathleen	  praise	telephone
bass	      enterprise    kermit	  precious	temptation
bassoon	      enzyme	    kernel	  prelude	thailand
batman	      ersatz	    kirkland	  prince	tiger
beater	      establish	    knight	  princeton	toggle
beauty	      estate	    ladle	  protect	tomato
beethoven     euclid	    lambda	  protozoa	topography
beloved	      evelyn	    lamination	  pumpkin	tortoise
benz	      extension	    larkin	  puneet	toyota
beowulf	      fairway	    larry	  puppet	trails
berkeley      felicia	    lazarus	  rabbit	trivial
berliner      fender	    lebesgue	  rachmaninoff	trombone
beryl	      fermat	    lee		  rainbow	tubas
beverly	      fidelity	    leland	  raindrop	tuttle
bicameral     finite	    leroy	  raleigh	umesh
bob	      fishers	    lewis	  random	unhappy
brenda	      flakes	    light	  rascal	unicorn
brian	      float	    lisa	  really	unknown
bridget	      flower	    louis	  rebecca	urchin
broadway      flowers	    lynne	  remote	utility
bumbling      foolproof	    macintosh	  rick		vasant
burgess	      football	    mack	  ripple	vertigo
campanile     foresight	    maggot	  robotics	vicky
cantor	      format	    magic	  rochester	village
cardinal      forsythe	    malcolm	  rolex		virginia
carmen	      fourier	    mark	  romano	warren
carolina      fred	    markus	  ronald	water
caroline      friend	    marty	  rosebud	weenie
cascades      frighten	    marvin	  rosemary	whatnot
castle	      fun	    master	  roses		whiting
cat	      fungible	    maurice	  ruben		whitney
cayuga	      gabriel	    mellon	  rules		will
celtics	      gardner	    merlin	  ruth		william
cerulean      garfield	    mets	  sal		williamsburg
change	      gauss	    michael	  saxon		willie
charles	      george	    michelle	  scamper	winston
charming      gertrude	    mike	  scheme	wisconsin
charon	      ginger	    minimum	  scott		wizard
chester	      glacier	    minsky	  scotty	wombat
cigar	      gnu	    moguls	  secret	woodwind
classic	      golfer	    moose	  sensor	wormwood
clusters      gorgeous	    morley	  serenity	yacov
coffee	      gorges	    mozart	  sharks	yang
coke	      gosling	    nancy	  sharon	yellowstone
collins	      gouge	    napoleon	  sheffield	yosemite
commrades     graham	    nepenthe	  sheldon	zap
computer      gryphon	    ness	  shiva		zimmerman
condo	      guest	    network	  shivers
cookie	      guitar	    newton	  shuttle
cooper	      gumption	    next	  signature

[I wouldn't have picked some of these as "popular" passwords, but
then again, I'm not a worm writer.  What do I know?]

When everything else fails, it opens /usr/dict/words and tries every
word in the dictionary.  It is pretty successful in finding passwords,
as most people don't choose them very well.  Once it gets into
someone's account, it looks for a .rhosts file and does an 'rsh'
and/or 'rexec' to another host, it sucks over the necessary files into
/usr/tmp and runs /usr/tmp/sh to start all over again.

Between these three methods of attack (sendmail, fingerd, .rhosts)
it was able to spread very quickly.


The 'sh' program is the actual worm.  When it starts up it clobbers
its argv array so a 'ps' will not show its name.  It opens all its
necessary files, then unlinks (deletes) them so they can't be found
(since it has them open, however, it can still access the contents).
It then tries to infect as many other hosts as possible - when it
sucessfully connects to one host, it forks a child to continue the
infection while the parent keeps on trying new hosts.

One of the things it does before it attacks a host is connect to the
telnet port and immediately close it.  Thus, "telnetd: ttloop: peer
died" in /usr/adm/messages means the worm attempted an attack.

The worm's role in life is to reproduce - nothing more.  To do that it
needs to find other hosts.  It does a 'netstat -r -n' to find local
routes to other hosts & networks, looks in /etc/hosts, and uses the
yellow pages distributed hosts file if it's available.  Any time it
finds a host, it tries to infect it through one of the three methods,
see above.  Once it finds a local network (like 129.63.nn.nn for
ulowell) it sequentially tries every address in that range.

If the system crashes or is rebooted, most system boot procedures
clear /tmp and /usr/tmp as a matter of course, erasing any evidence.
However, sendmail log files show mail coming in from user /dev/null
for user /bin/sed, which is a tipoff that the worm entered.

Each time the worm is started, there is a 1/15 chance (it calls
random()) that it sends a single byte to on some
magic port, apparently to act as some kind of monitoring mechanism.


Three main 'swat' teams from Berkeley, MIT and Purdue found copies of
the VAX code (the .o files had all the symbols intact with somewhat
meaningful names) and disassembled it into about 3000 lines of C.  The
BSD development team poked fun at the code, even going so far to point
out bugs in the code and supplying source patches for it!  They have
not released the actual source code, however, and refuse to do so.
That could change - there are a number of people who want to see the

Portions of the code appear incomplete, as if the program development
was not yet finished.  For example, it knows the offset needed to
break the BSD fingerd, but doesn't know the correct offset for Sun's
fingerd (which causes it to dump core); it also doesn't erase its
tracks as cleverly as it might; and so on.

The worm uses a variable called 'pleasequit' but doesn't correctly
initialize it, so some folks added a module called _worm.o to the C
library, which is produced from:
		int pleasequit = -1;
the fact that this value is set to -1 will cause it to exit after one

The close scrutiny of the code also turned up comments on the
programmer's style.  Verbatim from someone at MIT:
	From disassembling the code, it looks like the programmer
	is really anally retentive about checking return codes,
	and, in addition, prefers to use array indexing instead of
	pointers to walk through arrays.

Anyone who looks at the binary will not see any embedded strings -
they are XOR'ed with 81 (hex).  That's how the shell commands are
imbedded.  The "obvious" passwords are stored with their high bit set.

Although it spreads very fast, it is somewhat slowed down by the fact
that it drives the load average up on the machine - this is due to all
the encryptions going on, and the large number of incoming worms from
other machines.

[Initially, the fastest defense against the worm is is to create a
directory called /usr/tmp/sh.  The script that creates /usr/tmp/sh
from one of the .o files checks to see if /usr/tmp/sh exists, but not
to see if it's a directory.  This fix is known as 'the condom'.]


None of the ULowell machines were hit by the worm.  When BBN staffers
found their systems infected, they cut themselves off from all other
hosts.  Since our connection to the Internet is through BBN, we were
cut off as well.  Before we were cut off, I received mail about the
sendmail problem and installed a patch to disable the feature the worm
uses to get in through sendmail.  I had made local modifications to
fingerd which changed the offsets, so any attempt to scribble over the
stack would probably have ended up in a core dump.

Most Internet systems running 4.3BSD or SunOS have installed the
necessary patches to close the holes and have rejoined the Internet.
As you would expect, there is a renewed interest in system/network
security, finding and plugging holes, and speculation over what
will happen to the worm's creator.

If you haven't read or watched the news, various log files have named
the responsible person as Robert Morris Jr., a 23-year old doctoral
student at Cornell.  His father is head of the National Computer
Security Center, the NSA's public effort in computer security, and has
lectured widely on security aspects of UNIX.

Associates of the student claim the worm was a 'mistake' - that he
intended to unleash it but it was not supposed to move so quickly or
spread so much.  His goal (from what I understand) was to have a
program 'live' within the Internet.  If the reports that he intended
it to spread slowly are true, then it's possible that the bytes sent
to were intended to monitor the spread of the
worm.  Some news reports mentioned that he panicked when, via some
"monitoring mechanism" he saw how fast it had propagated.

A source inside DEC reports that although the worm didn't make much
progress there, it was sighted on several machines that wouldn't be
on its normal propagation path, i.e. not gateways and not on the same
subnet.  These machines are not reachable from the outside.  Morris
was a summer intern at DEC in '87.  He might have included names or
addresses he remembered as targets for infesting hidden internal
networks.  Most of the DEC machines in question belong to the group he
worked in.

The final word has not been written - I don't think the FBI have even
met with this guy yet.  It will be interesting to see what happens.