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
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    6 Security Trends for 2018/2019
    Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  10/15/2018
    6 Reasons Why Employees Violate Security Policies
    Ericka Chickowski, Contributing Writer, Dark Reading,  10/16/2018
    Getting Up to Speed with "Always-On SSL"
    Tim Callan, Senior Fellow, Comodo CA,  10/18/2018
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Video
    Cartoon
    Latest Comment: Too funny!
    Current Issue
    Flash Poll
    The Risk Management Struggle
    The Risk Management Struggle
    The majority of organizations are struggling to implement a risk-based approach to security even though risk reduction has become the primary metric for measuring the effectiveness of enterprise security strategies. Read the report and get more details today!
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    CVE-2018-10839
    PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
    Qemu emulator <= 3.0.0 built with the NE2000 NIC emulation support is vulnerable to an integer overflow, which could lead to buffer overflow issue. It could occur when receiving packets over the network. A user inside guest could use this flaw to crash the Qemu process resulting in DoS.
    CVE-2018-13399
    PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
    The Microsoft Windows Installer for Atlassian Fisheye and Crucible before version 4.6.1 allows local attackers to escalate privileges because of weak permissions on the installation directory.
    CVE-2018-18381
    PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
    Z-BlogPHP 1.5.2.1935 (Zero) has a stored XSS Vulnerability in zb_system/function/c_system_admin.php via the Content-Type header during the uploading of image attachments.
    CVE-2018-18382
    PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
    Advanced HRM 1.6 allows Remote Code Execution via PHP code in a .php file to the user/update-user-avatar URI, which can be accessed through an "Update Profile" "Change Picture" (aka user/edit-profile) action.
    CVE-2018-18374
    PUBLISHED: 2018-10-16
    XSS exists in the MetInfo 6.1.2 admin/index.php page via the anyid parameter.