Feeds

Superworm seizes 9m PCs, 'stunned' researchers say

Downadup goes up and up

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

Realm of Possibility

The number is "certainly within the realm of possibility," said Joe Stewart, a researcher with security provider SecureWorks, but he says it's still not clear whether the tally is counting some infected machines more than once, something that would cause the final count to be inflated. F-Secure representatives weren't immediately available to clarify.

The other mystery surrounding Downadup is the intentions of the people building the botnet. In early December, Royal's team at Damballa observed it interacting with a domain name that has strong ties to rogue anti-virus programs, which rake in big money installing malware that's disguised as legitimate security software.

But after security professionals managed to close down the domain name, Downadup has mainly laid low. A pseudo-random generator embedded into the malware causes infected machines to report to a different domain name each day. White hats have been able to sporadically track the botnet's moves by registering domain names ahead of the botmasters, but so far, they haven't observed the infected drones receiving instructions to spam, steal banking passwords, or carry out other nefarious actions typical of such networks.

"Given that there are new domain names generated everyday, the botmasters have an infinite number of chances to actually claim control of the botnet and direct it to do whatever they want whenever they want," said Royal. "Based on what we saw in the past, it seems likely they may try and push rogue anti-virus software on people's systems in the future, but of course, there's nothing that precludes them from doing something completely different."

For now, there's little the white hat world can do to turn the tide of infections. This month's malicious software removal tool from Microsoft included definitions designed to disinfect machines hit by the worm, but some researchers believe compromised PCs are unable to receive Microsoft updates, a measure that could largely neutralize the measure. Redmond has yet to share data on the its effectiveness.

That leaves law-abiding security researchers with few options other than to watch as more and more infected machines connect to a different server each day, patiently waiting for instructions from overlords who are believed to be located in eastern Europe.

"If somebody were more ambitious and willing to break the law, I'm sure they could host their own server and then push out disinfection code," said SecureWorks's Stewart. "There's a certain point where we have to stand back and we really can't cross the line. Sure, you could fix it to some extent, but at the risk of getting yourself in legal hot water." ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Tor attack nodes RIPPED MASKS off users for 6 MONTHS
Traffic confirmation attack bared users' privates - but to whom?
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.