Attacks/Breaches
4/7/2008
12:00 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

New Massive Botnet Twice the Size of Storm

400,000-strong 'Kraken' botnet has infiltrated 50 Fortune 500 companies -- and now usurps Storm as world's biggest botnet

SAN FRANCISCO -– RSA 2008 Conference –- A new botnet twice the size of Storm has ballooned to an army of over 400,000 bots, including machines in the Fortune 500, according to botnet researchers at Damballa. (See The World's Biggest Botnets and MayDay! Sneakier, More Powerful Botnet on the Loose.)

The so-called Kraken botnet has been spotted in at least 50 Fortune 500 companies and is undetectable in over 80 percent of machines running antivirus software. Kraken appears to be evading detection by a combination of clever obfuscation techniques, including regularly updating its binary code and structuring the code in such a way that hinders any static analysis, says Paul Royal, principal researcher at Damballa.

"It's easy to trace but slow to get antivirus coverage. It seems to imply [the creators] have a good understanding of how AV tools operate and how to evade them," Royal says.

Kraken's successful infiltration of major enterprises is a wakeup call that bots aren't just a consumer problem. Damballa and other botnet experts over the past few months have seen an unsettling rise in bot infections in enterprises. (See Bots Rise in the Enterprise.)

Royal says like Storm, Kraken so far is mostly being used for spamming the usual scams -- high interest loans, gambling, male enhancement products, pharmacy advertisements, and counterfeit watches, for instance. "But given that it updates its binary, there's no reason it couldn't update itself to a binary that does other things," Royal says. "I'm wondering where this thing is going to go."

Damballa predicts that even now that Kraken has been outed, it will continue growing at least in the near-term -- up to at least 600,000 new bots by mid-April. Its bots are prolific, too: The firm has seen single Kraken bots sending out up to 500,000 pieces of spam in a day.

Just how Kraken is infecting machines is still unclear, but Royal says the malware seems to appear as an image file to the victim. When the victim tries to view the image, the malware is loaded onto his or her machine. "We know the picture... ends in an .exe, which is not shown" to the user, Royal says.

Royal initially didn't rule out the possibility that Kraken could be some sort of Storm spinoff, but later today concluded that recent analysis by Damballa confirms that the two botnets are unrelated.

Kraken's bots and command and control servers communicate via customized UDP and TCP-based protocols, he says, and the botnet has built-in redundancy features that automatically generate new domain names if a C&C server gets shut down or becomes disabled. "And the actual payload is encrypted," Royal says.

Damballa first noticed Kraken late last year, but says early variants of the botnet appear to date back to late 2006. The primary C&C servers are hosted in France, Russia, and the U.S., according to Damballa.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Damballa Inc. Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Cartoon
    Current Issue
    Dark Reading Tech Digest, Dec. 19, 2014
    Software-defined networking can be a net plus for security. The key: Work with the network team to implement gradually, test as you go, and take the opportunity to overhaul your security strategy.
    Flash Poll
    Video
    Slideshows
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    CVE-2015-1375
    Published: 2015-01-28
    pixabay-images.php in the Pixabay Images plugin before 2.4 for WordPress does not properly restrict access to the upload functionality, which allows remote attackers to write to arbitrary files.

    CVE-2015-1376
    Published: 2015-01-28
    pixabay-images.php in the Pixabay Images plugin before 2.4 for WordPress does not validate hostnames, which allows remote authenticated users to write to arbitrary files via an upload URL with a host other than pixabay.com.

    CVE-2015-1419
    Published: 2015-01-28
    Unspecified vulnerability in vsftp 3.0.2 and earlier allows remote attackers to bypass access restrictions via unknown vectors, related to deny_file parsing.

    CVE-2014-5211
    Published: 2015-01-27
    Stack-based buffer overflow in the Attachmate Reflection FTP Client before 14.1.433 allows remote FTP servers to execute arbitrary code via a large PWD response.

    CVE-2014-8154
    Published: 2015-01-27
    The Gst.MapInfo function in Vala 0.26.0 and 0.26.1 uses an incorrect buffer length declaration for the Gstreamer bindings, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via unspecified vectors, which trigger a heap-based buffer overf...

    Best of the Web
    Dark Reading Radio
    Archived Dark Reading Radio
    If you’re a security professional, you’ve probably been asked many questions about the December attack on Sony. On Jan. 21 at 1pm eastern, you can join a special, one-hour Dark Reading Radio discussion devoted to the Sony hack and the issues that may arise from it.