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Net on 'Code Red' Alert

Aired July 30, 2001 - 15:05   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take you now to a news conference; we're talking about the invasion of Code Red, a computer worm aimed at the White House. Let's listen in:

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

RONALD DICK, NATL. INFRASTRUCTURE PROTECTION CTR.: ...use the Internet for communicating important information. Despite our increased reliance on the Internet at home, we increasingly treat computers as another appliance, like the microwave or television set, and the Internet, like normal telephone service.

In other words, we take it for granted, that just as our appliances will be there and function when we want to use them, so will the Internet. But, as you know, computers and the Internet are more complex. The Internet is growing, changing and adapting in ways that we are not even able to predict.

In some sense, it functions like a living organism. And we can -- and we can think of that network as sort of a nervous system and computers as organs that can live, connected to that nervous system, just as people and indeed all living things are vulnerable to malicious activity or the intentional spread of diseases, so are computers.

In some cases, we can protect ourselves. But, others not. And just as in the public health realm, we need to work together to battle new threats as they emerge. I am putting forth this health analogy to illustrate the point that network security and computer functioning need to be constantly monitored and maintained just like our own health. But in some way, it falls short of describing the potential spread of computer worms, such as Code Red.

Unlike personal health, where contact among infected persons is usually necessary to spread a virus; on the Internet, we are all connected. A small number of users who are infected with the Code Red worm can infect thousands or indeed million vulnerable to users, even thousands of miles away. On top of that, someone has purposely spread this worm, and is trying to infect others.

Code Red is the latest in a series of worms used to intact computer systems in order to launch distributed analysis service attacks. In such attacks, the victim computers are being used without the operator's knowledge to flood a Web site and overload it. We're taking this worm most seriously, due to its ability to proliferate at a dramatic rate.

The worm was reported in mid-July. Thereafter, several warning notices were issued. On July 19th, alone, the Code Red worm infected more than 250,000 systems in just nine hours. One security firm estimates that the Code Red can attempt to infect up to one half, a million IP or Internet Protocol addresses in a day.

The worm exploits a vulnerability on Microsoft Internet Information Systems' versions 4.0 and 5.0. Running on Windows NT-4 and Windows 2000 Operating Systems. In simpler terms, many people have this Web server product on their personal or business machines. Machines using Windows 95, 98, or Millennium Addition operating systems are not affected.

In the last round of attacks, the worm sought out and infected unpatched systems. In turn, the victim systems launched, distributed, denial a service attacks on July 19th, a date that was programmed into the worm. We have indications that a tiny percentage of the infected machines or that a tiny percentage of infected machines are scanning the Internet now, in search of new victims.

Based on analysis of the worm, there will be a tremendous surge in the worm, and the scanning of vulnerable systems starting on July 31st at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time will begin again. There is reason for concern that the mass traffic associated with the worms' propagation could degrade the overall functioning of the Internet and impact ordinary users.

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