11:56 AM

Iranian Cyber Army Joins Botnet Business

Up to 20 million machines may be infected by malware network, which may be backed by Iranian authorities, finds Seculert.

Inside DHS' Classified Cyber-Coordination Headquarters
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The Iranian Cyber Army (ICA), known for defacing websites, appears to be diversifying. Security researchers now say the group is responsible for a powerful, recently discovered botnet containing more than 400,000 infected computers, and adding new ones at the rate of 14,000 every hour.

"It appears reasonable to assume that the 'Iranian Cyber Army' group has decided to move from simple defacement warnings to actual cybercrime activities," said Seculert, the threat management service that discovered the botnet. In fact, the botnet may have already infected 20 million machines, though Seculent said that number was an estimate.

"What really matters here is what the 'Iranian Cyber Army' can do with such power," said the firm. "For now, what they do is lease part of their botnet to other groups, which then install on these controlled machines different types of malware." That malware includes Zeus, Gozi, and Bredolab. (While Dutch police took down a number of Bredolab servers early this week, TrendMicro noted that at least one command-and-control server, located outside the Netherlands, is still active, and there may be more.)

Seculert has already traced multiple attacks to the Iranian Cyber Attack's botnet, including the September 2010 attack against the TechCrunch Europe blog site. After the attack, the TechCrunch website redirected users to a crimeware website that exploited known vulnerabilities to automatically install malware on the visitor's computer.

"What is interesting in the case of ICA is that they were the ones performing the attack, said Rob Rachweld, director of security strategy at Imperva. "Now they have realized -- why can't they make the extra buck on the side if they already have the infrastructure?"

The exact identities of the Iranian Cyber Army are in some dispute, though news reports suggest that the group was formed by Iranian authorities in the wake of mass protests -- physical and cyber -- following the disputed June 2009 Iranian presidential elections.

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