Summary Report - the-binary, A Denial of Service Agent

May 27, 2002


Recently, an unauthorized piece of software was recently discovered on one of the computers in the Honeynet project's experimental network.  The program was found only in its compiled, binary form, and no source code was found to aid in determining the purpose of the program.  A reverse engineering effort was conducted in an attempt to determine the purpose of the binary and detail its capabilities.  The results and effective countermeasures would be shared with the computer security community at large.

This summary will briefly explain:

Denial of Service Attack Tools

Reverse engineering efforts identified this program as an "agent" component of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) network.  A DDoS network is a collection of compromised computers on which components of a DDoS system have been placed.  These components, when activated by a malicious user, act in concert to deny a victim access to some resource or service.  A simple example of a denial of service attack would be overwhelming a web based business, for instance, with bogus connection requests.  While the servers are busy handling the malicious requests, legitimate customers might find it difficult to connect, possibly resulting in lost revenue.  Another example of a denial of service might be flooding a corporate mail server with connection requests in order to slow and perhaps even stop its performance.  The resulting slowdown in corporate communications could possibly wreak havoc on the company's ability to perform its mission.

Denial of Service Networks

In order for an attacker to launch an attack of sufficient magnitude to bring high-powered servers to their knees, an attacker will generally attempt to create an army of computers that will, upon command, generate volumes of traffic directed at a target system potentially disrupting normal functions of the target system.  An attacker will typically seek to compromise as many accessible systems as possible in order to install DDoS tools and to construct a DDoS army.  Using compromised systems has several advantages to the attacker: A small snapshot of a typical DDoS network is shown to the right. A small number of attaskers control a pyramid structure of handlers, which in turn control an even larger layer of agents.  The agents act as a force multiplier for the attacker.  On command from the attacker and via the handlers, the agents launch a coordinated attack against a single target. The attack generally attempts to consume some resource on the target machine, making it unavailable for its intended purpose.

Construction of The DDoS Network

An attacker constructs a DDoS network by taking control of as many computers as possible.  This usually takes place by exploiting known vulnerabilities in operating systems or applications.  With each newly exploited system, the attacker extends the attack network.  In many cases, gaining control of one computer can lead to the exploitation of additional systems.  In highly automated attacks, an attacker's initial exploit may be self-propagating, and preprogrammed to launch a DoS attack at a specific time and against a specific target.  The Code Red worm, which propagated via a vulnerability in the Microsoft IIS web server, is an example of such an automated tool whose eventual goal was to launch a denial of service attack against

"the-binary", the topic of this summary, has no self-propagating properties.  It does, however require root privileges in order to execute properly, and one can assume that if this program is found running on a system, the computer has been fully compromised.

Capabilities of the-binary

This particular program offers its owner (handler) several capabilities.  The main functions are highlighted below

Detection and Removal

A significant sustained increase in network traffic is a strong indication that a DoS tool is active within your network.  With this particular tool, a simple network sniffer, such as ethereal or tcpdump, will be able to provide the MAC address from which the DDoS attack is originating.  "the-binary" makes no attempt to disguise itself at the ethernet address level MAC spoofing), though it does do IP address spoofing.  A simple scanning tool is available to scan class C subnets for the presence of active the-binary agents.  Once a machine is determined to contain the tool, the binary file can be located on that machine by grep'ing for the string "TfOjG", which is the encoded version of the backdoor password.  It should be assumed that any machine found to contain this program has been fully compromised, and appropriate incident response measures should be instituted for each infected machine.


Defense against "the-binary" takes on three forms
  1. Keep system security patches up-to-date on all systems so that no system in your network becomes an agent system.
  2. Perform egress filtering on border routers so that packets containing spoofed IP addresses are dropped. This will keep your network from contributing substantially to a DoS should one of your machines become compromised.
  3. At your firewall, deny all protocols that are not in use on your network.  Once you have configured any rules for allowed protocols, make sure you deny any other protocols by default.
  4. Perform rate limiting on incoming connections from the same IP address

Useful Sites for Additional DDoS Information

Denial of Service Attack - The SANS Institute
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks/Tools - David Dittrich, University of Washington