In response to widespread Windows 2000-based worm attacks this week, Microsoft has released a free worm removal tool and updated its statement about the attacks. While the software giant still refuses to characterize these worms as "new attacks" the company is at least speaking more plainly about how its affected customers can get help.
"Microsoft is taking additional actions to help protect customers from the 'Zotob' worm," a Microsoft representative told me. "We are not aware at this time of a new attack but are releasing a free software-based cleaner tool to help any customers that may have been affected." That tool is available from the Microsoft Web site.
In its statement about the worms, Microsoft notes that it is working with law enforcement agencies to find and charge those responsible for the attacks. The company also explains that customers using firewalls are generally protected from these attacks. Microsoft recommends that customers using Windows 2000 use a firewall, turn on Automatic Updates (AU), and enable up-to-date antivirus software. Microsoft customers in the US and Canada can also receive free technical support for this issue from Microsoft Product Support Services at 1-866-PCSAFETY.
Meanwhile, over 250,000 Windows 2000 systems--most in large corporations--have succumbed to the attacks. McAfee has raised its risk assessment of one of the worms to "high" and notes that most attacks seem to have occurred in the US. According to security experts, however, the Zotob worms have affected far fewer systems than did similar malware attacks last year.