Web security and the Slammer Worm

Unless you haven't been reading the technology news over the last few weeks, you already know about the SQL Slammer worm. What you probably know is that this malicious code threat is a worm that targets SQL Server 2000. You probably also know that this worm resides in memory only. Thus many anti-virus solutions are unable to scan for and detect this threat. Furthermore, its primary danger is a denial of service caused by excessive traffic generated over UDP port 1434.

If you are like most of the overworked, underpaid, under-staffed, under-appreciated network and security administrators out there, you probably had this line of thought: "Great, yet another Microsoft security problem. Let's see, the Slammer worm only affects SQL Server 2000. I don't run SQL Server 2000..." If you used this line of reasoning to move on to other issues, you may have left your Web server (and any other Internet linked systems) vulnerable.

You need not have the full commercial product of SQL Server 2000 deployed in order for your Web servers to have the SQL Server 2000 service present and active. In fact, many third-party applications use SQL Server as their database management system to handle all of their data. Applications such as message boards, FTP sites, gaming systems, e-mail servers, collaboration software, and much more. Plus, the SQL Slammer worm affects not just the SQL Server 2000 service but also the Microsoft Desktop Engine (MSDE) 2000.

I found this out the hard way. I had installed a discussion group product on my Web server. After about 6 months of use, I uninstalled the product using the vendor provided uninstall routine. However, it failed to remove the SQL service it was using. It even left it running and configured to load automatically on bootup.

If you have not already done so: thoroughly inspect your Web servers for hear-to-fore unknown instances of the SQL Server 2000 or the MSDE 2000 service. If you don't need it, disable it. If you are running applications that require it, deploy the fixes to correct the vulnerabilities (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/security/bulletin/MS02-039.asp and http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/security/bulletin/MS02-061.asp).

About the author
James Michael Stewart is a partner of ITinfo Pros, Inc., a technology-focused writing and training organization.

This was first published in February 2003

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