The Code Red worm is expected to re-awaken tonight (8:00 pm EST), and the media have been asked to help spread the word.
During a press conference in Washington yesterday, Ron Dick, head of the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), gathered a panel of security specialists from various government agencies including CERT and SANS, along with Microsoft's Scott Culp, and asked reporters to warn the public to get their IIS systems patched immediately.
Having covered this beat during the Clinton years, I was prepared to hear references to an Electronic Pearl Harbor. I heard none. I was prepared to hear slick appeals for legislation to give the FBI greater freedom to invade the privacy of Netizens in their pursuit of electronic evildoers. I heard none (though Congress seems eager to fork it over anyway). Dick even said that increased prosecution would be futile. Increased awareness and self-protection, he reckoned, is the way to go.
Many computer users imagine their systems as inert boxes, he said. Too many fail to see that they "need to be constantly monitored and maintained....like a living organism".
That comment should enrage MS critics who believe that it's the company's responsibility to ensure that the bloatware it's selling has all its holes bunged before release, which it is; but then Dick does have a point too.
"The protection of the Internet requires a partnership with the government, private companies and the public as a whole," he said.
In all, it was a reasonable, sober meeting between bureaucrats and reporters, which Dick moderated well.
"The protection of the Internet requires a partnership with the government, private companies and the public as a whole," Dick added.
"Because....the functioning of the Internet could be degraded by the Code Red worm, government and industry have come together in an unprecedented manner."
I seriously doubt that the worm will wreak much havoc this month (it certainly didn't last month); but I was relieved to hear it discussed in rational language for a change.
If this sort of outreach and liaison work is an example of what Dick sees NIPC doing as he attempts to rescue it from the gross mismanagement of his Clinton-era predecessor, Michael Vatis, then we're behind him, and wish him success. ®
Get your patches here
Note: the worm is memory-resident. You must re-boot after installing the hotfix.