Feeds

Phatbot arrest throws open trade in zombie PCs

10 cents a PC for access

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

The arrest of the suspected author of the Phatbot Trojan could lead to valuable clues about the illicit trade in zombie PCs. The arrest of the alleged Phatbot perp was overshadowed by the unmasking of the admitted Sasser author, Sven Jaschan. But the Phatbot case may shed the mostlight into the dark recesses of the computer underground.

Phatbot is much less common than NetSky but is linked much more closely with the trade in compromised PCs to send spam or for other nefarious purposes. Viruses such as My-Doom and Bagle (and Trojans such as Phatbot) surrender the control of infected PCs to hackers. This expanding network of infected, zombie PCs can be used either for spam distribution or as platforms for DDoS attacks, such as those that many online bookies have suffered in recent months. By using compromised machines - instead of open mail relays or unscrupulous hosts - spammers can bypass IP address blacklists.

Phatbot was been used to spam, steal information or perform DDoS attacks, according to Mikko Hyppönen, director of anti-virus research at F-Secure. "You could do anything you wanted with it," he said. Phatbot is a variant of Agobot, a big family of IRC bots. Hyppönen said people were selling tailor-made versions of the bot for various illegal purposes.

NetSky also contains a backdoor component but this was designed only to upgrade malicious code: it is not a conscious attempt by its designer to turn compromised PC into spam zombies, Hyppönen says. Alex Shipp of MessageLabs said hackers ware still able to seize machines compromised by NetSky but he agreed with Hyppönen that worms such as Bagle and MyDoom, and Trojans like Phatbot, are far more commonly used in zombie spam networks.

As reported last month, networks of compromised hosts (BotNets) are commonly traded between virus writers, spammers and middlemen over IRC networks.

The price of these BotNets (DoSNets) was roughly $500 for 10,000 hosts last Summer when the MyDoom and Blaster (the RPC exploit worm) first appeared on the scene. "I have no doubt it's doubled since then as hosts are cleaned and secured," Andrew Kirch, a security admin at the Abusive Hosts Blocking List told El Reg. By his reckoning, non-exclusive access to compromised PCs sells for about 10 cent a throw.

An unnamed 21 year-old man from the southern German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg was arrested last Friday on suspicion of creating the Agobot and Phatbot Trojans. He is yet to be formally charged. ®

Related stories

German police arrest Sasser worm suspect and alleged Phatbot perp
Phatbot primed to steal your credit card details
The illicit trade in compromised PCs

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
NOT OK GOOGLE: Android images can conceal code
It's been fixed, but hordes won't have applied the upgrade
DEATH by PowerPoint: Microsoft warns of 0-day attack hidden in slides
Might put out patch in update, might chuck it out sooner
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.