Feeds

Whitehats tackle The Great Botnet Dilemma

Remove Kraken? Or leave it be?

Seven Steps to Software Security

After infiltrating one of the biggest and most abusive known botnets, security researchers are wrestling with a thorny ethical dilemma: should they exorcise tens of thousands of possessed machines or simply leave them be?

Pedram Amini and Cody Pierce, of security provider TippingPoint, reverse engineered the executable behind the notorious Kraken botnet, a feat that allowed them to build a fake server that receives connections from zombie machines looking for instructions about who and what to spam. Over the course of a week, an estimated 25,000 machines, most belonging to home broadband users, reported for duty. That's as much as 14 percent of the entire Kraken population, according to some estimates.

"This is where we entered into a moral dilemma and ethical discussion," Amini wrote in an entry on the TippingPoint DVLabs blog. "We have the ability to successfully redirect infected systems. We have the ability to provide an 'update' through the existing Kraken protocol that can simply remove the Kraken zombie. Is it wrong to do so?"

For the moment, there appears to be an internal difference of opinion at TippingPoint. Amini and Pierce are both in favor of removing the bots, a move that in a single keystroke would likely make the machines run better and, more importantly, would rid the internet of 25,000 spam-barfing machines.

But TippingPoint boss Dave Endler sees things differently. What if the deed has the unintended consequence of bringing down a machine, and what if said machine is responsible for someone's life support? The hypothetical is a bit extreme (is anyone foolhardy enough to rely on a Windows PC for life support?), but it still captures the essence of why intervention may not be a good idea. No matter how good their intention, the researchers could find themselves in trouble should anything go wrong.

So for the time being, the company, which provides intrusion prevention products for large companies, will simply allow these demonic machines to go about their business. That's a shame, because as we reported earlier, the Kraken architects have gone to great lengths to cloak infected machines and make them hard to disinfect. Now that they've learned that their brainchild has been reverse engineered, who knows when such a chance will come around again? ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Yorkshire cops fail to grasp principle behind BT Fon Wi-Fi network
'Prevent people that are passing by to hook up to your network', pleads plod
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
Mozilla fixes CRITICAL security holes in Firefox, urges v31 upgrade
Misc memory hazards 'could be exploited' - and guess what, one's a Javascript vuln
NEW, SINISTER web tracking tech fingerprints your computer by making it draw
Have you been on YouPorn lately, perhaps? White House website?
BMW's ConnectedDrive falls over, bosses blame upgrade snafu
Traffic flows up 20% as motorway middle lanes miraculously unclog
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Attackers raid SWISS BANKS with DNS and malware bombs
'Retefe' trojan uses clever spin on old attacks to grant total control of bank accounts
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.