Feeds

Dodgy drug sales underpin Storm worm

The bitterest pill

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Illegal pharmaceutical supply chain outfits have become the main customers of botnet farmers. Spam-pushing botnets, such as that established by the Storm worm, are raking it in advertising dodgy drug websites, according to a study by security appliance firm IronPort.

Four out of five junk emails distributed through the Storm botnet advertise online pharmacy brands. The storm botnet has become a full-service ecommerce operation with a complex supply chain, according to IronPort's 2008 Internet Malware Trends: Storm and the Future of Social Engineering.

Spam templates, website designs, credit card processing, product shipment and even customer support are being provided by the Russian cybercrooks behind the Storm worm, according to IronPort, the spam filtering appliance division of networking giant Cisco. Malware authors recruit botnet spamming partners to promote illegal pharmacy websites, receiving commissions of as much as 40 per cent on the resulting sales.

The prescription drugs on offer were sent to people who were not examined by a doctor first, risking their health on dodgy male potency drugs and the like. IronPort made a number of purchases of spamvertised drugs. Subsequent pharmacological testing found that two-thirds of the shipments failed to include the correct dosage of an active ingredient while the rest were sugar pills (placebos).

Smoking gun

IronPort's study fills in the detail about the relationship between botnet masters and penis pill spammers, a business it reckons generates tens of millions a year. "Our research has revealed a smoking gun that shows that Storm and other botnet spam generates commissionable orders, which are then fulfilled by the supply chains, generating revenue in excess of $150m per year." said Patrick Peterson, vice president of technology at IronPort.

The Storm worm (more accurately called a Trojan) turns over control of infected PCs to botmasters. Either social engineering trickery or web-based exploits are used to load up malware onto victimised PCs. IronPort reckons a total of 40 million computers have been infected by Storm in the period between January 2007 and February 2008. The actual number of infected machines at any one time is, of course, much lower than this.

Storm was considered to account for one in five spam messages at its peak of 1.4 million compromised PCs in July 2007, though the number infected by Storm has dropped off since then. Storm now represents only a "tiny sliver" of the spam deluge, estimated by IronPort to rack up to 186 billion messages a day. Despite this ratcheting down in activity new variants of Storm continue to appear. Other botnet agents - such as Bobax, Kraken and Srizbi - have emerged to eclipse Storm.

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Next page: Spam 2.0

More from The Register

next story
'Regin': The 'New Stuxnet' spook-grade SOFTWARE WEAPON described
'A degree of technical competence rarely seen'
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
You stupid BRICK! PCs running Avast AV can't handle Windows fixes
Fix issued, fingers pointed, forums in flames
Regin: The super-spyware the security industry has been silent about
NSA fingered as likely source of complex malware family
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
HACKERS can DELETE SURVEILLANCE DVRS remotely – report
Hikvision devices wide open to hacking, claim securobods
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
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.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
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.
The Heartbleed Bug: how to protect your business with Symantec
What happens when the next Heartbleed (or worse) comes along, and what can you do to weather another chapter in an all-too-familiar string of debilitating attacks?