Feeds

Whitehats tackle The Great Botnet Dilemma

Remove Kraken? Or leave it be?

New hybrid storage solutions

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? ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Google recommends pronounceable passwords
Super Chrome goes into battle with Mr Mxyzptlk
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Reddit wipes clean leaked celeb nudie pics, tells users to zip it
Now we've had all THAT TRAFFIC, we 'deplore' this theft
Enigmail PGP plugin forgets to encrypt mail sent as blind copies
User now 'waiting for the bad guys come and get me with their water-boards'
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
TorrentLocker unpicked: Crypto coding shocker defeats extortionists
Lousy XOR opens door into which victims can shove a foot
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.