Microsoft's recently released Blaster clean-up tool was downloaded 1.4 million times during the first few hours of its availability earlier this month. The strong need for the tool makes a case for greater automation of viral removal, according to Microsoft.
The tool, which disinfects machines infected with either the Blaster or Nachi worms, was released by Microsoft five months after the original worm hit the Net in response to pressure on Microsoft from ISP and enterprise customers.
Normally, such clean-up technology is left to AV firms. But this isn't a normal viral epidemic: ISPs say the worm is still generating malicious traffic, months after its first appearance.
Having bought into the AV market last summer, Microsoft can no longer say the issue is somebody else's problem.
So Microsoft released a Windows Blaster Worm Removal Tool through Windows Update.
Stuart Okin, Chief Security Officer at Microsoft UK, explained that the tool would only be downloaded onto machines that were infected with the prolific worm. Even so, there were 1.4 million "distinct downloads" of the tool within the "first few hours" of it availability, according to Okin.
Users can force downloads of the tool but in the vast majority of cases the Blaster download tool was automatically downloaded through Windows Update onto machines that were patched but still infected with the worm. Patching against security vulnerabilities and removing viral infection are separate processes.
Okin said the success of the Blaster clean up tool illustrates the need for greater automation in the removal of viral infection.
He defended the five-month wait for a Blaster clean-up tool from Microsoft: "We were watching the market and it became obvious there were continued network problems and people were not using cleaning tools. After it became obvious our user base was still affected we responded accordingly."
"The tool had to to be tested before we could put it on Windows Update," Okin told The Register, adding that it would be unfair to accusr Microsoft of tardiness.
Microsoft shouldn't get too much credit for cleaning up its own mess but the experience of the Blaster clean up tool calls into question current AV approaches.
Microsoft isn't ready to disclose what it intends to do with last year's GeCAD acquisition, according to Okin. But he said the company is entering the AV market because a large percentage of its user base lacks protection. Its objective is not to go gunning for dominant market share, he added.
Okin agreed that Windows is far more commonly afflicted with worm infections than Linux, but argued that Microsoft offers greater accountability and support than open source alternatives. ®