What’s your take on the recent Morto worm? Do you think its growth is more of a result of issues with Windows Remote...
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive emails regarding relevant topic offers from TechTarget and its partners. You can withdraw your consent at any time. Contact TechTarget at 275 Grove Street, Newton, MA.
Desktop Protocol, configuration errors or simply weak passwords? Do you think it’s likely the state of a move away from Trojans and bots and back toward “old-school” Internet worms?
The Morto worm, discovered in August, was a new way to attack insecurely configured Windows systems. Essentially an evolved Windows networking worm, it spread from an infected system using the Windows Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), an element of the Windows Remote Desktop Connection service that allows a Windows PC or server to be controlled remotely. However, the worm did not exploit vulnerabilities in RDP the way previous Windows networking worms did.
The rapid propagation of the Morto worm was a result of RDP being allowed through many firewalls. Most generic firewalls could not block this attack without blocking RDP, but firewalls or IPSes with application detection capabilities could be used to block the application-layer attack. The Morto worm was an application-layer attack, exploiting a common configuration error: a weak password. It would attempt a brute-force login as an administrator on a victim’s machine, using a series of common passwords. Most systems should be configured to enforce strong passwords, yet Morto was still able to spread quite successfully.
The Morto worm was just an infection mechanism to load malware on the system. As far as malware goes, it didn’t seem to be terribly malicious, but Morto could have loaded Zeus or a number of different malware or bot software programs on its victim machines to profit from its rapid propagation. It's an important lesson for security practitioners, as broad use of strong passwords would have likely stopped the Morto worm in its tracks.
It is ironic that Windows systems configured with one of the least secure options, a blank administrative password, would have been protected from this worm since users with blank passwords are not allowed to connect via Remote Desktop Protocol. I wouldn't be surprised if the Morto worm paves the way for a future Windows worm to attack an application or protocol exposed by network or additional host-based firewalls, like the Witty worm did for BlackIce. There are security weaknesses in older versions of RDP (.pdf) and the remote desktop client, but Microsoft has improved the security of the protocol and the client application in the most recent versions, most notably with strong encryption for network connections.
Dig Deeper on Malware, Viruses, Trojans and Spyware
Related Q&A from Nick Lewis
The new Trochilus RAT can avoid detection in cyberespionage attacks. Expert Nick Lewis explains how it works, and if enterprises need to adapt their ...continue reading
The Asacub Trojan has new banking malware features. Expert Nick Lewis explains how it made this transition and what enterprises should be watching ...continue reading
BlackEnergy malware may have been part of the attacks on Ukrainian utility and media companies. Expert Nick Lewis explains how this malware works and...continue reading
Have a question for an expert?
Please add a title for your question
Get answers from a TechTarget expert on whatever's puzzling you.