A few weeks ago, my network was probed and violated, and of my systems and bandwidth were unwittingly the purveyors of pirated material for about 30 hours. I consider myself a pretty sophisticated, security-aware user, so let me tell you how this happened to me. Maybe my ordeal can give you some insight on how to protect yourself and your users.
First, here are some definitions and background for those of you who may need to get caught up on jargon. (For more info on current jargon, see www.jargon.org.) Warez is the term for cracked, copy-protected commercial software. People who traffic in warez sometimes incorrectly call themselves hackers, but the correct term is cracker. Real hacks refer to crackers as warez d00dz (a.k.a. “dudes”). It is the goal of a cracker to have as much free software as is possible to amass on a hard drive, even if the cracker never uses it.
Now, I will address the act of cracking copy protection. A piece of software is said to be cracked if one of the following conditions is true:
• A valid registration code is shipped with the warez distribution of the software.
• A cracker has unassembled the software and patched or removed the registration or protection process from the software.
• A key generator has been created for the software to generate valid registration keys.
Once software is cracked, the warez d00dz put copies on FTP sites, Web servers, and in newsgroup postings and then alert their denizens to the new locations of the software through various Web sites, Internet Relay Chats (IRCs), and newsgroups. For a look at the type of resources available, go to your favorite search engine and search for “warez.”
But That’s Illegal!
Obviously, sending compromised copies of commercial software is an illegal activity. So, how do the warez d00dz keep from being arrested and thrown in jail? Well, instead of using their own Web and FTP servers to traffic in stolen goods, they use yours. That’s right. The warez d00dz search the Web for unprotected Web and FTP servers, upload illegal material to these servers, and then tell all of their buddies where to find the goods.
And here is the kicker: What you may not know is that you may be criminally liable if your site is used to distribute warez software or cracking code. Let me walk you through how one of my servers was purloined, so you can see how easily and quickly you can be compromised in this connected and wired world.
The Scene of the Crime
Besides editing MC’s Microsoft Computing section, I have a full-time job with Client Server Development as a consultant, coder, and chief bottle washer. We are a small company and have an asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) service into our office and a small LAN. The ADSL modem is connected directly to a NETGEAR RT311 gateway, which acts as our Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server, Domain Name System (DNS) server, and firewall. All computers in the office are connected to a 100 MB switch, which is linked to the RT311. I had the RT311 set up to deny any access from the outside to any machine on the inside of our network, since we use a collocation service to serve our commercial Web pages. In addition, I had our internal FTP services turned off.
One Friday night, a customer was having problems and needed to send me about 30 MB of data for me to address the issue. He was at home, and his Internet provider did not allow email attachments greater than 5 MB, so he needed FTP access to send me the file. I opened an FTP port on my firewall and then granted anonymous FTP permission to my server so he could upload the file. When the file arrived, I fiddled with the data and sent corrections to the customers server so that all was happy with the world. What I forgot to do was close the port on my firewall and turn off anonymous access to the FTP server—big mistake.
Sunday night, I was working on a presentation that I had to make the next day when I noticed all these blinking lights on the switch, indicating massive network traffic. Since I was the only one there, I wondered who was using all this bandwidth and began to investigate. Lo and behold, I had been compromised. Between Friday evening and Sunday evening, the crackers had found the open port on our firewall and determined that our server was allowing anonymous uploads and downloads. The crackers then proceeded to upload a copy of a Dracula movie in DivX format, a key generator for CDRWIN, a cracked version of Winamp, and several other copyrighted works. All in all, the crackers stole 284 MB of our server disk space and transferred about 3 GB of data on our ADSL line in two days. Looking at my logs, I determined that the crackers found our server only 12 hours after I opened the port on our firewall.
The point of this story is all it takes is one small mistake to compromise your network and your computing resources. I know better, and I made the mistake of leaving an open hole that allowed our bandwidth and disk space to be used for evil. The crackers found that hole in only 12 hours. How good is your security?