Feeds

Celebrity spam gang whips up a storm

Stealth botnet responsible for huge spam surge

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

A copycat spam gang has launched an effort to compromise PCs that rivals the botnet created by the infamous Storm Worm Gang.

The botnet established by the Celebrity Spam Gang, so-named for a habit of using celebrity names in malware, is currently responsible for 20 per cent of junk mails in circulation, according to net security firm Marshal.

Marshal reckons the gang has been building up its botnet since August 2006 when it began chucking out messages with infected attachments that commonly promise nude images of celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Britney Spears. Other tactics include disguising malware-tainted attachments as free games or Windows Security Updates.

All this is fairly standard stuff, yet the gang has enjoyed considerable success.

"It is a concern to us that so many computer users are still being taken in by what we would consider to be an obvious subterfuge as 'check out this nude Britney Spears game'. The Storm Gang has been more inventive with their campaigns and exploited everything from news headlines to greeting cards. There is clearly a need for renewed awareness and education," said Bradley Anstis, VP of products at Marshal.

The Celebrity Spam Gang is following the Storm Gang's template of spamming out malware in order to expand its botnet, in turn building the capacity to generate greater numbers of junk mail messages.

The scale of the gang's activities only became apparent after security researchers at Marshal deliberately infected a machine, turning it into a zombie client of the Celebrity Spam Gang.

"We deliberately infected a test computer with the Celebrity Gang botnet and then closely monitored its behaviour and the make-up of spam it was instructed to send by the spammers," Anstis explained. "We were able to match this spam against 23 per cent of all spam we saw in circulation for the previous month."

Although the Celebrity Spam Gang had been on Marshal's radar for some time, the volume of junk mail it was responsible for came as a surprise to security researchers.

Marshal recommends PC users do not open executable files attached to email messages from addresses they do not recognise or trust and to "refrain from opening any message that purports to feature nude celebrities".

Obvious advice, perhaps, but something a small minority of surfers are ignoring, to the detriment of the internet as a whole. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

More from The Register

next story
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Don't look, Snowden: Security biz chases Tails with zero-day flaws alert
Exodus vows not to sell secrets of whistleblower's favorite OS
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
Four fake Google haxbots hit YOUR WEBSITE every day
Goog the perfect ruse to slip into SEO orfice
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.