Messages coded into the Goner worm and monitoring of the IRC channel used to control its activities led to the arrest of four suspected Israeli virus writers over the weekend.
One of the actions of Goner, which normally spreads as an infected attached-to-email message, is to install denial of service scripts for the mIRC Internet Relay Chat client. By monitoring the #pentagonex channel used to control the worm's activities, security experts working for DALnet IRC were able to track down its suspected creators.
Emma Monks, a volunteer with DALnet's exploits prevention team, said that after disabling the worm's denial of service abilities, which were believed to be targeted at a rival gang's ISP, DALnet's team set to track down the virus authors.
When activated the Goner worm displays a message, apparently from the author to his friends:
"Pentagone - coded by: suid. tested by ThE_SKuLL and [satan]. greetings to: TraceWar, k9-unit, stef16, ^Reno. Greetings also to nonick2 out there where ever you are."
DALnet records the IP address of anyone setting up an IRC channel which combined with the nicknames featured in the message the virus generates gave investigators vital clues.
Monks explained that by cross references the nicknames of those attempting to control drones from compromised machines on the channel with its database gave the IP addresses of members of the virus writing gang.
This information was turned over to the FBI, which in turn passed it on to the Israeli police. The four teenagers who were arrested on Friday are held in a juvenile detention centre pending a court appearance today and their computers have been seized. If convicted they could face a sentence of between three to five years in jail.
Goner is a fairly simple in its design, but it contains some nasty tricks up its sleeve including an attempt to disable antivirus and personal firewall applications. It spreads by ICQ as well as by Outlook. More details on the worm can be found here. ®
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