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Apache Worm Targets Secure Sites

Apache Worm Targets Secure Sites

An Internet worm is rapidly infecting Linux-on-Intel systems by exploiting a vulnerability lurking in a common security layer used by the Apache web server. Ironically, the worm can invade secure Apache servers because of a hole in Apache's Secure Socket Layer (SSL) data encryption module. SSL is used to hide sensitive information like financial transactions and corporate data from prying eyes. Non-SSL Apache servers are immune as are non-Intel machines.

Once the worm invades a system, it forms a peer-to-peer (P2P) network by listening for signals from other infected machines. Hackers can use the P2P network to launch a so-called distributed denial-of- service (DDOS) attack against other servers. A DDOS attack works by flooding a server with mangled TCP/IP packets that demand processing power to decipher. If an attack is successful, the machine becomes so overwhelmed with the network traffic it either crashes or stops responding to legitimate server queries.

The SSL vulnerability was first reported by the CERT Coordination Center security organization on July 30, but the worm didn't crop up until late last week. Last Friday the security firm Symantec, in effort to appear relevant to the epidemic, dubbed the worm the Linux.Slapper.Worm and issued a warning claiming 3,500 servers had been infected. It advised administrators to do the obvious: get an SSL module upgrade from their vendor.

It's unclear exactly how many servers vulnerable to the worm remain online, but web server survey firm Netcraft says that for some reason, administrators upgrade plain Apache servers faster than Apache/SSL servers, "perhaps because [the plain servers] receive more traffic, or because the [unsecured] HTTP service is the conduit favored by worm writers." Netcraft cites a general Apache vulnerability as evidence to the phenomena. Half of the 22 million Apache servers online use version 1.3.36, which fixes a well-known security hole. By contrast, only a quarter of the Apache SSL servers online have upgraded to version 1.3.36. - Curtis Lee Fulton

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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Most Recent Comments
Mike Kobar 09/30/02 08:29:00 AM EDT

The Apache SSL security problem is caused by one (or more) OpenSSL security problems, which were detected and fixed in July.

The real problem here is one of not upgrading your code/systems/libraries/binaries when a significant security hole is discovered. The CERT repoert on the OpenSSL security problem did state that this could cause a huge Apache SSL problem and Apache Week also reported this fact.

If you don't keep up-to-date in the security world then you are asking for trouble, especially in the web server world.

Anne Ward 09/22/02 01:04:00 PM EDT

According to the Apache web site, the security problems are related to the OpenSSL source code used by applications on the web server, and not specific to the Apache HTTP server.

Please confirm that this is your understanding of the problem as well.

Thanks

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