Part 1: Halloween in the Data Center?

Posted by Sabrina Sturm Mon, 29 Oct 2012 14:01:00 GMT

Halloween is coming soon – on the night of 31 October to November 1st, dozens of witches, zombies and other creepy monsters will be roaming the streets of German cities and villages, going trick or treating. Initially, this custom has its origins in Ireland and was brought to the US by immigrants. For some years now, Halloween (short for All Hallows’ Eve) has also found a growing number of fans in Germany. In private, this surely is a nice and brilliantly creepy affair, however, if Halloween also seems to rub off on the company IT, it can become a dangerous and expensive matter.


Zombies are not only roaming the streets


Unfortunately, zombies are not only around at Halloween, but also begin to enter companies more and more often. The term zombie has its origins in central Africa and describes a fictional character of a resurrected dead person that has no will of his own, but acts automatically. While human “victims” get away leniently on Halloween, zombies in the IT world are a serious problem that has to be fought.   

IT uses the term “zombie” to describe computers which have been infiltrated with malware by a remote attacker and develop a life outside the reach of the owner. Multiple computers infected by an attacker merge to form a “zombie army” and mutate to become one connected – very well-known and feared - botnet. The monarch of this zombie army (“botmaster”) therefore gains a great deal of power, provided that he was able to infect a sufficient number of PCs turned zombies. To get to the needed critical mass is simpler than expected – malware that is introduced to a network like this easily spreads virally, since the owner of the PC often has no knowledge of the infestation (in the beginning). 

Primarily, illegal botnets are used for the distribution of spam/phishing mails, the execution of DDoS-Attacks (distributed denial of service), or to enable the circulation of viruses and Trojans. However, not only private PCs are on an attacker’s target list but, increasingly, also company PCs. This is not really astonishing, since it can be extremely lucrative. The intentions range from monetary fraud, disturbances of a company’s processes to the theft of sensitive company information.  For example, the German Criminal Police (BKA) already warned some time ago against a digital extortion racket which threatened to execute DDoS attacks. If their demands were not met, such an attack on the IT infrastructure of a company (for example, a company’s webshop would be paralyzed) would be made. Sure enough, this is reminiscent of Halloween and the zombies roaming the streets at this time of the year. On the contrary to the mostly nice children going “trick or treating,” to the IT sector, this is not a harmless joke. 

The second part of our Halloween special will be available by tomorrow. Don´t miss it!


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