Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Under Worm Assault, U.S. Military Bans Disks, USB Drives

Noah Shachtman writes on Danger Room:

The Defense Department's geeks are spooked by a rapidly spreading worm crawling across their networks. So they've suspended the use of so-called thumb drives, CDs, flash media cards, and all other removable data storage devices from their nets, to try to keep the worm from multiplying any further.

The ban comes from the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, according to an internal Army e-mail. It applies to both the secret SIPR and unclassified NIPR nets. The suspension, which includes everything from external hard drives to "floppy disks," is supposed to take effect "immediately." Similar notices went out to the other military services.

In some organizations, the ban would be only a minor inconvenience. But the military relies heavily on such drives to store information. Bandwidth is often scarce out in the field. Networks are often considered unreliable. Takeaway storage is used constantly as a substitute.

The problem, according to a second Army e-mail, was prompted by a "virus called Agent.btz." That's a variation of the "SillyFDC" worm, which spreads by copying itself to thumb drives and the like. When that drive or disk is plugged into a second computer, the worm replicates itself again — this time on the PC. "From there, it automatically downloads code from another location. And that code could be pretty much anything," says Ryan Olson, director of rapid response for the iDefense computer security firm. SillyFDC has been around, in various forms, since July 2005. Worms that use a similar method of infection go back even further — to the early '90s. "But at that time they relied on infecting floppy disks rather than USB drives," Olson adds.

More here.


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