CYBERSECURITY

Neeris worm uses old tricks on Windows PCs

While the information technology security community waited anxiously to see what havoc the Conficker worm might bring to infected systems on April 1, another worm slithered into the picture and now has Microsoft's full attention.

This time, it's an old nemesis named the "Neeris" worm. A new variant of Neeris, known as Worm:Win32/Neeris.gen!C, began infecting Microsoft Windows-based systems between March 31 and April 1 while IT security experts were looking the other way. A lot of attention was diverted to Conficker, although nothing of consequence happened on April 1.

Microsoft said this week Neeris has resurfaced and is exploiting the same vulnerability targeted by Conficker. Microsoft issued a patch for this vulnerability in October (MS08-067), but company officials have complained that IT shops still lag in applying it.

Neeris tries to exploit the same Microsoft Windows AutoRun and remote call procedure features used by Conficker. The aim of the attack is to extract passwords, change system configurations and allow a hacker to override a workstation.

Neeris replicates itself through a server service vulnerability described in a previous patch from September of 2006 (MS06-040). That method involves sending malicious links over MSN Messenger and interloping on MSN's instant messaging program so that when the links are accessed, the worm can do its dirt.

To stave off this worm, the Microsoft is telling IT shops to take steps to install patches on nonupdated machines, as with Conficker. Disabling AutoRun in Windows is also a temporary workaround fix.

About the Author

Jabulani Leffall is a journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times of London, Investor's Business Daily, The Economist and CFO Magazine, among others.

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