Attacks/Breaches

8/30/2018
05:00 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Botnets Serving Up More Multipurpose Malware

Attackers increasingly are distributing malware that can be used for a variety of different tasks, Kaspersky Lab says.

In a troubling trend for enterprises, an analysis of botnet activity in the first six months of 2018 shows that multifunctional malware tools are becoming increasingly popular among attackers.

Kaspersky Lab inspected more than 150 malware families and their modifications across some 60,000 botnets around the world and found that the share of multipurpose Remote Access Tools has almost doubled on botnets since the beginning of 2017 - from 6.5% to 12.2%.

The three most widespread of these RATs or backdoors—Njrat, DarkComet, and Nanocore—are all malware tools that attackers can relatively easily modify for different purposes or adapt for distribution in specific regions. Kaspersky Lab discovered Njrat to have command and control centers in 99 countries, mainly because of how easily attackers can use it to configure a personal backdoor with very little knowledge of malware development. Nanocore and DarkComet have C2 centers in over 80 countries for the same reason.

Similarly, Trojans capable of being modified and controlled by different command and control servers and used for different purposes were another category of malware that grew in Q1, though not quite as dramatically as RATs. Kaspersky Lab's analysis showed that the share of such Trojans increased from 32.9% in the second half of 2017 to around 34.3% in the first six months of 2018.

Over the same period, the proportion of single-purpose tools being distributed through botnets declined substantially. For example, the share of special-purpose banking Trojans distributed via botnets dropped over 9.2%, from around 22.5% in the second half of 2017 to 13.3% of all malicious files in the first half of 2018.

Similarly, the share of spamming bots, which are another category of single-purpose malware, dropped to 12.2% this year from almost 19% in H2 of 2017. DDoS bots—another category of single-purpose tool—followed a similar pattern dropping from around 3% in Q3 and Q4 last year to about 2.7% in the first six months of this year.

Botnets on a Budget

One factor driving the trend is the relatively high costs of operating a botnet, says Alexander Eremin, security expert at Kaspersky Lab. Bots can be costly, so botmasters are looking for every opportunity to make money from their malware tools. Multi-purpose malware allows bot owners to quickly adapt their network for different purposes: from delivering spam, for instance, to distributing banking Trojans and ransomware, he says.

"[The] trend is driven by significant botnet ownership costs. Criminals will attempt to take everything at the first chance," Eremin notes. "The emergence of multifunctional malware means that users need powerful protection as criminals try to steal users’ credentials, money, sensitive data, using the same malware sample."

Botnets increasingly are being used according to the needs of the operator at that time, so it is often difficult to identify the primary specialization of a botnet, he says.

The Kaspersky Lab report is the second in recent weeks to warn about an increase in multi-purpose and adaptive malware tools. Earlier this month security vendor Proofpoint said it had seen a recent increase in the use of modular downloaders that allow attackers to modify malware after it has been installed on a system.

Basically, the tools allow adversaries to fingerprint infected systems and then modify or update the malware based on items of interest that the downloader might identify on a system.

Modular malware like the multiple-purpose tools that Kaspersky Lab highlighted in its report this week is problematic for enterprises because of how it can be quickly adapted for a variety of different tasks.

Related Content:

 

Black Hat Europe returns to London Dec 3-6 2018  with hands-on technical Trainings, cutting-edge Briefings, Arsenal open-source tool demonstrations, top-tier security solutions and service providers in the Business Hall. Click for information on the conference and to register.

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Government Shutdown Brings Certificate Lapse Woes
Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading,  1/11/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: On the SS7 network, nobody knows you're a dog.
Current Issue
The Year in Security 2018
This Dark Reading Tech Digest explores the biggest news stories of 2018 that shaped the cybersecurity landscape.
Flash Poll
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
How Enterprises Are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Data breach fears and the need to comply with regulations such as GDPR are two major drivers increased spending on security products and technologies. But other factors are contributing to the trend as well. Find out more about how enterprises are attacking the cybersecurity problem by reading our report today.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2018-18812
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-16
The Spotfire Library component of TIBCO Software Inc.'s TIBCO Spotfire Analytics Platform for AWS Marketplace, and TIBCO Spotfire Server contains a vulnerability that might theoretically fail to restrict users with read-only access from modifying files stored in the Spotfire Library, only when the S...
CVE-2018-18813
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-16
The Spotfire web server component of TIBCO Software Inc.'s TIBCO Spotfire Analytics Platform for AWS Marketplace, and TIBCO Spotfire Server contains multiple vulnerabilities that may allow persistent and reflected cross-site scripting attacks. Affected releases are TIBCO Software Inc. TIBCO Spotfire...
CVE-2018-18814
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-16
The TIBCO Spotfire authentication component of TIBCO Software Inc.'s TIBCO Spotfire Analytics Platform for AWS Marketplace, and TIBCO Spotfire Server contains a vulnerability in the handling of the authentication that theoretically may allow an attacker to gain full access to a target account, indep...
CVE-2018-5740
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-16
"deny-answer-aliases" is a little-used feature intended to help recursive server operators protect end users against DNS rebinding attacks, a potential method of circumventing the security model used by client browsers. However, a defect in this feature makes it easy, when the feature is i...
CVE-2018-5741
PUBLISHED: 2019-01-16
To provide fine-grained controls over the ability to use Dynamic DNS (DDNS) to update records in a zone, BIND 9 provides a feature called update-policy. Various rules can be configured to limit the types of updates that can be performed by a client, depending on the key used when sending the update ...