Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

7/26/2017
04:40 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
Google+
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

FBI Talks Avalanche Botnet Takedown

FBI unit chief Tom Grasso explains the takedown of Avalanche and how the agency approaches botnet infrastructures.

BLACK HAT USA - Las Vegas - Tom Grasso, unit chief of the FBI's cyber division, took the Black Hat stage to discuss the processes and partnerships leading up to the massive Avalanche takedown in December 2016.

Avalanche "wasn't a botnet," he noted at the beginning of his talk. It was an infrastructure for enabling botnets, created by two administrators and active since 2010. The multitiered network of servers was used to spread malware campaigns, facilitate "money mule" laundering schemes, and act as a fast-flux communication infrastructure for other botnets.

The network affected more than 500,000 systems and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. Malware powered by Avalanche included Nymain ransomware and GozNym, a banking Trojan designed to steal credentials and initiate fraudulent wire transfers.

Grasso displayed an ad for Avalanche on criminal forum DirectConnection, where it was described as "ideal for hosting Trojans" with "bulletproof hosting" and high-speed uplinks. More than 800,000 malicious domains were associated with Avalanche; its complexity "demonstrates the great lengths criminals will go to, to make this work," he explained.

"We're not talking about some kid in his mom's basement; … we're talking about businessmen. This is a business to them," he said. "This was a strategic move by the criminals running this to add another level of complexity to make it unsusceptible to law enforcement intervention."

As part of his presentation, Grasso discussed the FBI's approach to reducing the threat of botnets. Its steps include neutralizing threat actors through arrest, charge, and prosecution; disabling the infrastructure; and mitigating the threat by sharing IOCs and signatures.

Working with the private sector is essential, he added. Private sector businesses identify priority threats and the FBI works with them to brainstorm solutions. Both sides share intel on the problem and determine a way to neutralize the threat.

The FBI worked with private companies, international organizations, and foreign governments to take down Avalanche. Partner organizations included FBI agents, German state and federal police, Ukrainian police, Shadowserver, nonprofit Registrar of the Last Resort, and Fraunhofer, a German company that mapped out the technical patterns of Avalanche.

"The criminals are really excellent at collaborating. … It's one of the reasons they're great at what they do," said Grasso. "If we're going to do something about these problems, it's gonna be a joint effort."

In November 2015, it was discovered the administrators behind Avalanche were using a private server in Moldova to communicate with clients and for the domain registration panel. In January 2016, they moved the functions of the Moldovan server to a private server in the US.

A search warrant on the private server revealed email addresses for the administrators and a buddy list with more than 200 clients. Official discovered easy-reg.net was an administrative panel that stated 3,000 domains run over Avalanche websites. One chat discovered by officials included an explanation of the "fast-flux" decisions driving criminal activity on the network.

The investigation of Avalanche included the arrest of five individuals and searches across four countries, the seizing of servers, and an "unprecedented effort" to sinkhole more than 800,000 malicious domains associated with the infrastructure.

Going forward, Grasso emphasized the importance of working with private and international partners as criminals conduct operations abroad.

"The bad guys are never in your country. … They're always somewhere else when you're investigating this stuff," he said.

Related Content:

Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Mobile Banking Malware Up 50% in First Half of 2019
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/17/2020
Exploits Released for As-Yet Unpatched Critical Citrix Flaw
Jai Vijayan, Contributing Writer,  1/13/2020
Microsoft to Officially End Support for Windows 7, Server 2008
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  1/13/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
The Year in Security: 2019
This Tech Digest provides a wrap up and overview of the year's top cybersecurity news stories. It was a year of new twists on old threats, with fears of another WannaCry-type worm and of a possible botnet army of Wi-Fi routers. But 2019 also underscored the risk of firmware and trusted security tools harboring dangerous holes that cybercriminals and nation-state hackers could readily abuse. Read more.
Flash Poll
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
[Just Released] How Enterprises are Attacking the Cybersecurity Problem
Organizations have invested in a sweeping array of security technologies to address challenges associated with the growing number of cybersecurity attacks. However, the complexity involved in managing these technologies is emerging as a major problem. Read this report to find out what your peers biggest security challenges are and the technologies they are using to address them.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-7227
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
Westermo MRD-315 1.7.3 and 1.7.4 devices have an information disclosure vulnerability that allows an authenticated remote attacker to retrieve the source code of different functions of the web application via requests that lack certain mandatory parameters. This affects ifaces-diag.asp, system.asp, ...
CVE-2019-15625
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A memory usage vulnerability exists in Trend Micro Password Manager 3.8 that could allow an attacker with access and permissions to the victim's memory processes to extract sensitive information.
CVE-2019-19696
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A RootCA vulnerability found in Trend Micro Password Manager for Windows and macOS exists where the localhost.key of RootCA.crt might be improperly accessed by an unauthorized party and could be used to create malicious self-signed SSL certificates, allowing an attacker to misdirect a user to phishi...
CVE-2019-19697
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
An arbitrary code execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2019 (v15) consumer family of products which could allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges and tamper with protected services by disabling or otherwise preventing them to start. An attacker must already have administr...
CVE-2019-20357
PUBLISHED: 2020-01-18
A Persistent Arbitrary Code Execution vulnerability exists in the Trend Micro Security 2020 (v160 and 2019 (v15) consumer familiy of products which could potentially allow an attacker the ability to create a malicious program to escalate privileges and attain persistence on a vulnerable system.