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

4/7/2008
12:00 PM
Connect Directly
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 the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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
    Why Vulnerable Code Is Shipped Knowingly
    Chris Eng, Chief Research Officer, Veracode,  11/30/2020
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Video
    Cartoon Contest
    Current Issue
    2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
    We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
    Flash Poll
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    CVE-2020-23727
    PUBLISHED: 2020-12-03
    There is a local denial of service vulnerability in the Antiy Zhijia Terminal Defense System 5.0.2.10121559 and an attacker can cause a computer crash (BSOD).
    CVE-2020-28175
    PUBLISHED: 2020-12-03
    There is a local privilege escalation vulnerability in Alfredo Milani Comparetti SpeedFan 4.52. Attackers can use constructed programs to increase user privileges
    CVE-2020-13524
    PUBLISHED: 2020-12-03
    An out-of-bounds memory corruption vulnerability exists in the way Pixar OpenUSD 20.05 uses SPECS data from binary USD files. A specially crafted malformed file can trigger an out-of-bounds memory access and modification which results in memory corruption. To trigger this vulnerability, the victim n...
    CVE-2020-13525
    PUBLISHED: 2020-12-03
    The sort parameter in the download page /sysworkflow/en/neoclassic/reportTables/reportTables_Ajax is vulnerable to SQL injection in ProcessMaker 3.4.11. A specially crafted HTTP request can cause an SQL injection. An attacker can make an authenticated HTTP request to trigger this vulnerability.
    CVE-2020-23726
    PUBLISHED: 2020-12-03
    There is a local denial of service vulnerability in Wise Care 365 5.5.4, attackers can cause computer crash (BSOD).