The Public Eye with Eric Chabrow

Is Politics, Not Crime, Behind Conficker?

Is Politics, Not Crime, Behind Conficker?

Is the motivation behind Conficker political and not criminal?

That's a distinct possibility among some researchers studying the computer worm that exploits flaws in Windows operating system to hijack PCs and link them into a virtual computer that can be controlled remotely by the software's authors.

Conficker - first detected last November - wasn't necessarily designed by criminal agents, but by an intelligence agency or the military of a nation to monitor or disable an enemy's computers, according to an article published by The New York Times on Thursday:

Networks of infected computers, or botnets, were used widely as weapons in conflicts in Estonia in 2007 and in Georgia last year, and in more recent attacks against South Korean and United States government agencies. Recent attacks that temporarily crippled Twitter and Facebook were believed to have had political overtones.

Experts suspect the authors behind Conficker are professionals who exploit the most advance technology available. As the paper points out, the program is protected by internal defense mechanisms that make it hard to erase, and even kills or hides from programs designed to look for botnets, adding:

A member of the security team said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had suspects, but was moving slowly because it needed to build a relationship with "non-corrupt" law enforcement agencies in the countries where the suspects are located.

The prospect that Conficker is a creation of a foreign government as a weapon provides further evidence that cybersecurity must be an collaboration with other nations. Of course, that raises another problem Washington must confront: which governments can we trust?

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About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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