Feeds

Storm botnet blows itself out

But will the zombie network rise again?

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Security watchers Marshal claim the infamous Storm botnet is no more, after waning spam emails finally dried up altogether last month.

Other security researchers have noted a similar decline, but warn that while the botnet is currently inactive it may yet return, possibly in a more potent form.

Storm front

The malware used to create zombie clients within the Storm botnet first began circulating in January 2007 in emails referencing the lethal storms ravaging Europe at the time. Prospective marks were invited to click links that directed them towards booby-trapped websites that infected Windows PCs.

Over time the gang behind the Storm worm - actually more accurately described as a Trojan - developed a variety of different social engineering lures, including fake electronic greeting cards. No new campaigns have been launched for a month.

At the peak of its activity in September 2007, compromised proxies in the Storm worm botnet were throwing out 20 per cent of the world's junk emails, according to Marshal. Industry estimates at the time (since revised) suggested anywhere between one and ten million Windows PCs had become zombie drones within the Storm worm botnet at the peak of its activity. More detailed studies have since put the figure of compromised clients in the Storm botnet somewhere between 500,000 and one million.

The success of the unknown bot-herders behind the worm inspired similar attacks by other groups, likewise designed to establish a network of compromised machines. These zombie clients were used to distribute junk mail or launch denial of service attacks, either by their owners themselves or (more commonly) by spammers and other miscreants who rented access to compromised machines via underground forums.

"Storm was one of the first botnets to use these tactics on a mass scale," explained Phil Hay, a lead threat analyst at Marshal. "It became the most successful botnet of its type and established the basic template for developing a spam empire that other botnets have since copied."

"Whoever was behind Storm really set the benchmark at the time for the kind of scale that was achievable with a spambot. They also led the way in using self-perpetuating malicious spam to grow the botnet. They utilised every social engineering trick in the book and invented quite a few of their own."

Storm’s success ultimately led to its undoing, especially after Microsoft targeted Storm through the Malicious Software Removal Tool in September 2007. Redmond reported that 274,372 Windows PCs were cleaned up using its tool during the first month alone.

By January 2008 the Storm worm was pumping out two per cent of the world's junk mail as Microsoft's clean-up efforts, as well as competition from rival botnets, ate into the malware's "market share".

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
Ello? ello? ello?: Facebook challenger in DDoS KNOCKOUT
Gets back up again after half an hour though
SHELLSHOCKED: Fortune 1000 outfits Bash out batches of patches
CloudPassage points to 'pervasive' threat of Bash bug
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
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.