An aggressive campaign by the social network to kill the pesky malware included taking down its command-and-control server; SophosLabs unmasks the alleged gang members

Dark Reading Staff, Dark Reading

January 18, 2012

3 Min Read

Facebook today revealed how over the past year it has been fighting the infamous Koobface malware that spreads via social networks and builds out a botnet: It knocked one of the gang’s command-and-control (C&C) servers offline, which resulted in more than nine months of no Koobface infections on the massive social network.

Security researchers worldwide have been putting the screws to the brazen Koobface malware gang of late in hopes of derailing their operations. Names have been named, their photos posted online, but they continue to operate freely in Russia. Sophos Labs, which today revealed a detailed account of how it followed the trail to the alleged gang members, also released the names of the alleged perpetrators: Anton Korotchenko, Alexander Koltyshev, Roman Koturbach, Syvatoslav Polinchuk, and Stanislav Avdeiko.

Koobface, which is an anagram for “Facebook,” had dogged the social network since 2008. The gang made money via pay-per-click and traffic referral schemes: Once a user got infected, his or her machine was redirected and, at times, duped into fake antivirus scams. The Koobface gang’s central C&C server was at the heart of the operation.

But Facebook today said that it killed that server back in March of last year: “...Facebook Security was able to perform a technical takedown of this ‘Command & Control’ Mothership. And since then we have had no new sightings of Koobface for over nine months and our teams are working hard to keep it that way,” according to post by Facebook’s security group today.

That takedown apparently came with the help of researchers including indie researcher Jan Droemer, who worked with SophosLabs’ Dirk Kollberg.

[Trend Micro report looks at the true motivation behind the widespread malware-laden botnet. See How The Koobface Worm Gang Makes Money.]

Facebook says it will share the information and intelligence it discovered about the game with others in the security industry. “Today, Koobface is still impacting other web properties and continues to threaten security for Internet users across the globe. While we have been able to keep Koobface off Facebook, we won't declare victory against the virus until its authors are brought to justice. We feel it is the interest of everyone online to work with law enforcement and the larger security community to identify the gang and see the full force of law brought to bear against those who have made millions in ill-gotten gains,” Facebook said today. “To this end, we will be sharing our intelligence with the rest of the online security community in the coming weeks in an effort to rid the Web of this virus forever.”

Koobface’s gang earns millions of dollars a year. But they made several missteps that led researchers to ID them, including a misconfigured server, and less-than-conspicuous personal online activity and luxurious lifestyles.

But whether they will be brought to justice is unclear.

"It's an incredible detective story of tireless investigation, which involved scouring the Internet, searching company records and taking advantage of schoolboy social networking errors made by the suspected criminals, their friends and family. We know the gang's names, their phone numbers, where their office is, what they look like, what cars they drive, even their mobile phone numbers," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "Now, we have to wait and see what, if any, action the authorities will take against the Koobface gang."

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Dark Reading Staff

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