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[] War with Iraq will mean virus outbreak, hacker says,

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War with Iraq will mean virus outbreak, hacker says

NOVEMBER 20, 2002

A Malaysian virus writer who is sympathetic to the cause of the
al-Qaeda terrorist group and Iraq and who has been connected to at
least five other malicious code outbreaks is threatening to release a
megavirus if the U.S. launches a military attack against Iraq.

The virus writer, who goes by the handle Melhacker and is believed to
have the real name of Vladimor Chamlkovic, is thought to have written
or been involved in the development of the VBS -
 OsamaLaden -!
- mm, Melhack,
Kamil, BleBla.J and Nedal worms.

However, in an exclusive interview today with Computerworld, Melhacker
confirmed earlier reports by Chantilly, Va.-based iDefense Inc. that
he has developed and tested a "three-in-one" megaworm code-named
Scezda that combines features from the well-known SirCam, Klez and
Nimda worms.

"This is a real Internet computer worm," said Melhacker. "I will
attack or launch this worm if America attacks Iraq." The worm has been
ready and fully tested in his lab since August, he said. He also
confirmed earlier intelligence reports that he has ties to both
Russian hackers and Pakistani virus writers.

Brian Kelly, president and CEO of iDefense, said that while Melhacker
hasn't proved adept at seeding new worms in the wild, this worm could
be difficult to stop. IDefense quietly warned its clients last week
about the potential for such a worm to hit the Internet, saying that
companies should move to a heightened state of alert and watch for
suspicious Internet traffic and e-mails if Iraq is attacked.

"If he were to be successful with this one, it could be very serious,"  
said Kelly. "Although we are aware of his contacts with Russian and
Palestinian code-authoring groups, we're not yet sure how strong those
relationships are."

Vincent Gullotto, vice president at McAfee Security's Avert, a
division of Network Associates Inc., said the threat posed by Scezda
is completely dependent on whether or not Melhacker is successful in
getting it to propagate.

"If he is, it could be very large," said Gullotto.

But it's difficult to speculate because there have been many such
viruses that have gone nowhere, he said. "Until we see the virus
moving in the wild, we consider it to be a low risk," Gullotto said.

Melhacker, who has also gone by the name Kamil, may have had some
involvement in the September release of the BugBear mass-mailing
network attack worm. According to iDefense, Melhacker has close ties
to Nur Mohammad Kamil, who identifies himself as part of a group known
as "A.Q.T.E. Al-Qaeda Network." Melhacker has also associated himself
with the al-Qaeda network for a long period and has been an active
Malaysian malicious coder threat for at least six years.

At least one of these worms, the Nedal worm (the name is Laden spelled
backward) contained encrypted code, according to analysis conducted by
iDefense. When decrypted, the code was shown to contain numerous
Arabic names of unknown significance, as well as references to

In the case of the VBS -
 OsamaLaden -!
- mm worm, the code leaves a message
that references the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and then attempts to
shut down a user's system and delete all files in the Windows System

The continuing development of malicious code from pro-Islamic and
pro-al-Qaeda hackers, especially in Malaysia, is of great concern and
one that needs to be closely watched, according to an intelligence
bulletin released last week by iDefense.

"While it might be true that al-Qaeda operatives are not well
organized, skilled or equipped to mount a serious cyberoffensive, it
is likely that al-Qaeda sympathizers will serve as surrogates in their
cyberoffensive," said Kelly.

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