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7/9/2009
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Research: A Day In the Life of A Spamming Bot

ESET researchers discover that a Waledac-infected bot spams out 150,000 messages a day

If you think your email inbox is out of control, consider this: A bot-infected machine can send out two spam email messages per second, and a total of around 150,000 in a day.

That's what researchers at ESET Latin America found after conducting an experiment in which they infected one of their machines with the prolific Waledac spamming botnet. Waledac, the reincarnated version of the infamous Storm botnet, is an HTTP-based botnet that's known for large holiday and news event-driven spam runs.

ESET infected one of its lab computers with one of Waledac's Trojans, using a binary that was part of a phony discount coupon campaign around Valentine's Day this year, and then monitored the machine's network traffic. They measured the email traffic in four stages during a one-hour period at different times of the day, and calculated an average of 6,548 email messages sent per hour by the bot.

Waledac, which is estimated to have around 20,000 bots in its army, could then theoretically spam 3 billion messages per day, blogged Sebastin Bortnik, security analyst for ESET Latin America. "...this is only the theoretical capacity because not all infected computers are being used 24 hours a day for sending spam," he blogged. "However, this demonstrates the power of botnets as a distributed networking resource in general, and the particular potential of the Waledac botnet for spam email distribution."

"Looking at the statistics presented here, many users will now understand why their computers work so slowly when their systems are infected...and why is there so much spam," Bortnik wrote.

Researchers confirmed in January that Waledac was a new and improved Storm -- using HTTP communications to help camouflage its activity among other Web traffic -- and with strong encryption, rather than the weak 64-bit RSA encryption it had used when researchers were able to crack it.

Waledac kept with its holiday theme last week with a spam run for the 4th of July that contained a link purported to be a video of a fireworks show.

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. 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

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