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.

Risk

3/28/2011
11:54 AM
Dave Methvin
Dave Methvin
Commentary
50%
50%

Microsoft Wins A Botnet Battle

The Rustok botnet was estimated to be one million PCs strong, underlining the dangers that malware can cause to businesses and consumers.

If you noticed a decrease in spam recently, there could be a good reason. This month, Microsoft took down the Rustok botnet.

Microsoft's Digital Crime Unit reported that its "research shows there may be close to one million computers infected with Rustock malware, all under the control of the person or people operating the network like a remote army, usually without the computer's owner even aware that his computer has been hijacked. Bot-herders infect computers with malware in a number of ways, such as when a computer owner visits a Web site booby-trapped with malware and clicks on a malicious advertisement or opens an infected e-mail attachment. Bot-herders do this so discretely that owners often never suspect their PC is living a double life."

These botnets aren't just the toy of young hackers who like causing mischief. They aren't trying to crash or disable the computer; in fact it's just the opposite. That stealth aspect to the bot infection is key to its success. The user has no reason to think they need to get their PC fixed, because a good botnet infection doesn't raise suspicion. That is the key to the botnet's survival.

A botnet is a huge money-making tool for its creators. When bot-herders take over a PC, they have many ways to turn a profit. One way is to grab information they find on the PC, or can extract by monitoring the user's keystrokes. This can give them access to bank accounts, credit cards, and login information to sites such as eBay or PayPal. Before the user can do anything to stop it, the botnet operator can transfer the PayPal money to another account. Or they can purchase expensive items with the user's eBay account and get the seller to send it to an address where the botnet operator can pick it up.

Perhaps the most valuable thing a botnet provides its handler is a large pool of "innocent-looking" IP addresses. In the case of the Rustok botnet, that's one million IPs. If the bot-controlled PC appears to visit a Web site, click on a Google Adwords ad, or send a few dozen emails, it's not possible to block that action based merely on the IP address. So Rustok's botnet could send 10 million spam messages by having each PC send just 10 emails, and nothing looks suspicious.

Click fraud is another endless source of money for botnet operators. By setting up some shallow content sites with Google Adwords or other ad networks, the bot-herder can have the bots visit those sites and click on the ads to generate revenue. The bot-herder can also use click fraud to attack competitors, clicking on their ads in order to drain their ad budgets. This type of fraud can be extremely difficult for the ad networks to spot if the botnet operator keeps the fraud at a low level and doesn't get too greedy.

When botnets started to emerge a decade ago, the creators of the botnets often used them directly and managed all the money-making schemes themselves. Now, many bot-herders rent out their botnet to other groups that have specific goals in mind, such as spam, click fraud, or targeted attacks. Underground message boards let bot-herders communicate with their customers to "sell time" on the botnet.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
DevSecOps: The Answer to the Cloud Security Skills Gap
Lamont Orange, Chief Information Security Officer at Netskope,  11/15/2019
Attackers' Costs Increasing as Businesses Focus on Security
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  11/15/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: -when I told you that our cyber-defense was from another age
Current Issue
Navigating the Deluge of Security Data
In this Tech Digest, Dark Reading shares the experiences of some top security practitioners as they navigate volumes of security data. We examine some examples of how enterprises can cull this data to find the clues they need.
Flash Poll
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Rethinking Enterprise Data Defense
Frustrated with recurring intrusions and breaches, cybersecurity professionals are questioning some of the industrys conventional wisdom. Heres a look at what theyre thinking about.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2011-3349
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-19
lightdm before 0.9.6 writes in .dmrc and Xauthority files using root permissions while the files are in user controlled folders. A local user can overwrite root-owned files via a symlink, which can allow possible privilege escalation.
CVE-2019-10080
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-19
The XMLFileLookupService in NiFi versions 1.3.0 to 1.9.2 allowed trusted users to inadvertently configure a potentially malicious XML file. The XML file has the ability to make external calls to services (via XXE) and reveal information such as the versions of Java, Jersey, and Apache that the NiFI ...
CVE-2019-10083
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-19
When updating a Process Group via the API in NiFi versions 1.3.0 to 1.9.2, the response to the request includes all of its contents (at the top most level, not recursively). The response included details about processors and controller services which the user may not have had read access to.
CVE-2019-12421
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-19
When using an authentication mechanism other than PKI, when the user clicks Log Out in NiFi versions 1.0.0 to 1.9.2, NiFi invalidates the authentication token on the client side but not on the server side. This permits the user's client-side token to be used for up to 12 hours after logging out to m...
CVE-2019-19126
PUBLISHED: 2019-11-19
On the x86-64 architecture, the GNU C Library (aka glibc) before 2.31 fails to ignore the LD_PREFER_MAP_32BIT_EXEC environment variable during program execution after a security transition, allowing local attackers to restrict the possible mapping addresses for loaded libraries and thus bypass ASLR ...