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Home : Advisories : VAX/VMS Break-ins

Title: VAX/VMS Break-ins
Released by: CERT
Date: 8th November 1990
Printable version: Click here

Hash: SHA1


Last Revised: September 17,1997

                Attached copyright statement

                            CERT Advisory

                          November 8, 1990

                          VAX/VMS Break-ins

- -------------------------------------------------------------------------



     Several VAX/VMS systems are presently being subjected to

intrusions by a persistent intruder(s).  The intruder utilizes DECnet,

TCP/IP, and/or X25 access paths to gain unauthorized entry into

accounts (privileged and non-privileged).  Once a privileged account

is breached, the intruder disables auditing & accounting and installs

a trojan horse image on the system.  In the most recent attacks, the

intruder has installed the image VMSCRTL.EXE in SYS$LIBRARY.  (Note

that VMSCRTL.EXE is not a vendor-supplied filename.) The command

procedure DECW$INSTALL_LAT.COM is placed in SYS$STARTUP and installs

the image.  Note that these images and command files are sufficiently

camouflaged so as to appear to be valid VMS system files, even upon

close inspection.

     There is no evidence that the intruder is exploiting any system 

vulnerability to gain access to the affected systems.  The  intruder 

uses valid username/password combinations to gain access to accounts.

The intruder most likely obtains these username/password combinations 

by systematically searching through text files on the user disks of 

penetrated systems for clear-text username/password pairs.  These 

username/password combinations are often valid on remote systems, 

which allows the intruder to access them as well.  Once a privileged 

account is accessed, the intruder will use the AUTHORIZE utility to 

detect and exploit dormant accounts (especially dormant privileged 

accounts).  The intruder has also assigned privileges to dormant 

non-privileged accounts.



Unauthorized users who gain privileged and/or non-privileged system

access might deliberately or inadvertently affect the integrity of

system information and/or affect the integrity of the computing





The following steps are recommended for detecting whether systems at

your site have been compromised:

     1.  Search for SYS$LIBRARY:VMSCRTL.EXE and

SYS$STARTUP:DECW$INSTALL.COM.  (This can be done with the following

DCL command: $ DIR device:[*...]/SINCE=date /MODIFIED).  Note that to

call the command procedure which installs the image, the intruder will

utilize SYSMAN to modify SYS$STARTUP:VMS$LAYERED.DAT.  Thus, there

will be an unexplained modification to SYS$STARTUP:VMS$LAYERED.DAT.

This may be the surest indication of an intrusion, since the intruder

could easily change the names and locations of the trojan horse image

and its accompanying command procedure.

     2.  If you discover that auditing or accounting has been disabled

for a period of time, go into AUTHORIZE and ensure that no password or

other changes were made during that time.  Password changes while

auditing and accounting have been disabled may indicate unauthorized

access into your system.

     The following pre-emptive actions are suggested:

     1. DISUSER all dormant accounts, especially dormant privileged


     2. Advise all users of the security problems inherent in placing

username/password combinations in text files.  Consider searching your

user disks for such occurrences.

     3. Change all vendor-supplied default passwords (e.g., MAILER,

DECNET, SYSTEM) and make sure all passwords are difficult to guess.

     4. Make sure that all privileged users have only the minimum

privileges that are REQUIRED to perform their current tasks.

     5. Closely monitor all relevant audit trails.

- -------------------------------------------------------------------------


Computer Emergency Response Team/Coordination Center (CERT/CC)

Software Engineering Institute

Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890


Internet E-mail: cert@cert.org

Telephone: 412-268-7090 24-hour hotline: CERT personnel answer

           7:30a.m.-6:00p.m. EST, on call for

           emergencies other hours.


Past advisories and other information are available for anonymous ftp

from cert.org (

- -------------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyright 1990 Carnegie Mellon University. Conditions for use, disclaimers,

and sponsorship information can be found in

http://www.cert.org/legal_stuff.html and http://ftp.cert.org/pub/legal_stuff .

If you do not have FTP or web access, send mail to cert@cert.org with

"copyright" in the subject line.

CERT is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.


Revision History:

September 17,1997 Attached Copyright Statement


Version: PGP for Personal Privacy 5.0

Charset: noconv





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