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Zotob is a computer worm which exploits security vulnerabilities in Microsoft operating systems like Windows 2000, including the MS05-039 plug-and-play vulnerability. This worm has been known to spread on Microsoft-ds or TCP port 445.

It was declared that the Zotob worms cost an average of $97,000 as well as 80 hours of cleanup per company affected.

Rbot variant

Zotob was derived from the Rbot worm. Rbot can force an infected computer to continuously restart. Its outbreak on August 16, 2005 was covered "live" on CNN television, as the network's own computers got infected. Zotob would self-replicate each time the computer rebooted, resulting in each computer having numerous copies of the file by the time it was purged. This is similar to the Blaster (Lovesan) worm.[clarification needed]

Sequence of events

  • August 9, 2005: Security advisory
    "On August 9th, Microsoft released critical security advisory MS05-039 which revealed a vulnerability in the Plug-and-Play component of Windows 2000. Code to patch the loophole was also made available." [2]
  • Virus writing
    "In the days since Microsoft's announcement, virus writers have released several variants of both Zotob and RBot, along with updated versions of older worms named SD-Botand IRC-Bot, designed to take advantage of the newly discovered flaw." [3]
  • August 13, 2005: Emerged on Saturday
    "The worms, called Zotob and Rbot, and variants of them, started emerging Saturday, computer security specialists said, and continued to propagate as corporate networks came to life at the beginning of the week." [4]
  • August 16, 2005: Took down CNN live "Around 5 p.m. problems began at CNN facilities in New York and Atlanta before being cleared up about 90 minutes later." "CNN, breaking into regular programming, reported on air that personal computers running Windows 2000 at the cable news network were affected by a worm that caused them to restart repeatedly."[6]
  • "The Internet Storm Center, which tracks the worldwide impact of computer worms, indicated on its Web site that no major Internet attack was underway. Likely this is an isolated event, which became newsworthy because CNN got infected. We do not see any new threats at this point, the site read." [7]
  • August 17, 2005: CIBC and other banks, companies affected
    "CIBC says the Zotob worm caused some isolated outages, but did not affect ATMs, Internet or phone banking. The virus also hit other Canadian businesses but has not caused widespread shutdowns."[8]
  • August 26, 2005: A suspect is arrested in Morocco 
    "Under the request of the FBI, Moroccan police arrests 18-year-old Farid Essebar, a Moroccan, suspected for being behind the spread of the virus." [9]
  • September 16, 2006: Sentencing
    "The creators of the Zotob Windows worm Farid Essabar and his friend Achraf Bahloul were sentenced by a court in Morocco.[10]

Arrest of the coders

On August 26, 2005, Farid Essebar and Atilla Ekici were arrested in Morocco and Turkey, respectively. They are believed to be the men behind the worm's coding.

A signature in the Zotob worm code suggested it was coded by Diabl0 and the IRC server it connects to is the same used in previous version of Mytob. Diabl0 is believed to have incorporated the code of a Russian nicknamed houseofdabus [11] whose journal has been shut down by authorities,[12] just after the arrest of Diabl0. The coder (Ekici) probably paid Diabl0 (Essebar) to write the code.

"He says it's all about making money, and that he doesn't care if people remove the worm because it's the spyware stuff that he installs that's making him the money, Taylor said in a conversation with me." [13]

On August 30, 2005, controversial reports emerged from different anti-virus firms. Sophos declared that several people had access to the Mytob source code (a variant of the worm). On the other hand, F-Secure declared that it has found multiple variants of Mytob that were coded after the arrest of Essebar. Those declarations suggest that Essebar is only a part of a larger group of Dark-side hackers behind the spread of the malware.

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