Security probes from Italy
Original issue date: December 10, 1990
Last revised: September 17, 1997
Attached copyright statement
A complete revision history is at the end of this file.
Many sites on the Internet received messages from "email@example.com
" (184.108.40.206) on Sunday, December 9. The
messages stated that "miners" is a group of researchers and students
in the computer science department at the state university of Milano
in Italy; a group testing for a "common bug" in network hosts. In
addition to the messages, a number of sites detected probes
from the unimi.it domain. Later today, a number of individuals
received a follow up message from
explaining the activities.
We have received reports that this activity has now stopped, and an
unofficial explanation has been provided by several administrators at
the University of Milano. The rest of this message describes the
sequence of events and the security holes that were probed.
Following the original messages from miners@ghost and
postmaster@ghost, another message was sent on the afternoon of December
10th from several administrators at the University of Milano. They
stated that the authorities at the University had been informed and
that the attempts had stopped. They also noted that they had not been
informed of the tests in advance.
The administrators at the University of Milano have sent us a copy of
the scripts that were used to probe the Internet sites. These scripts
checked for the existence of the sendmail WIZ and DEBUG commands,
and attempted to get /etc/motd and/or /etc/passwd via TFTP and
by exploiting an old vulnerability in anonymous FTP. The scripts
also attempted to rsh to a site and try to cat /etc/passwd. Finally,
the scripts mailed to root at each site they tested with the message
The administrators at the University of Milano state that the group
that did this was doing this to discover which (if any) sites might
have had these security flaws, and then to let the sites know about
these vulnerabilities. They have stated that they still intend to
inform sites that have these vulnerabilities.
To our knowledge, no site was actually broken into (as of December 10,
1990). Nonetheless, CERT* does not condone this type of activity.
Most of the information in this advisory is based on information given
to us via e-mail from individuals at the University of Milano. We
have not yet been able to check this information with any officials at
the University; if we learn of any other significant information, we will
update this advisory.
This document is available from:
CERT/CC Contact Information
Phone: +1 412-268-7090 (24-hour hotline)
Fax: +1 412-268-6989
CERT Coordination Center
Software Engineering Institute
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh PA 15213-3890
CERT/CC personnel answer the hotline 08:00-17:00 EST(GMT-5) / EDT(GMT-4)
Monday through Friday; they are on call for emergencies during other
hours, on U.S. holidays, and on weekends.
We strongly urge you to encrypt sensitive information sent by
email. Our public PGP key is available from
If you prefer to use DES, please call the CERT hotline for more
Getting security information
CERT publications and other security information are available from
our web site
* "CERT" and "CERT Coordination Center" are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Any material furnished by Carnegie Mellon University and the
Software Engineering Institute is furnished on an "as is"
basis. Carnegie Mellon University makes no warranties of any kind,
either expressed or implied as to any matter including, but not
limited to, warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or
merchantability, exclusivity or results obtained from use of the
material. Carnegie Mellon University does not make any warranty of any
kind with respect to freedom from patent, trademark, or copyright
Conditions for use, disclaimers, and sponsorship information
Copyright 1990 Carnegie Mellon University.
September 17,1997 Attached Copyright statement