Feeds

Conficker zombie botnet drops to 3.5 million

Map of the Problematique

Website security in corporate America

The "activation" of Windows machines infected with the latest variant of the Conficker worm has allowed security watchers to come up with a far more accurate estimate of how many machines are infected.

Early versions of Conficker called home to 250 different domain names every day to check for updates. Since Wednesday, machines infected by with the latest version of the worm (Conficker-C) began using a sample of 500 out of pre-programmed 50,000 domains a day to search for upgrades.

The unknown virus writers who created the worm are yet to publish any such update, but the call-back behaviour has allowed anti-virus firms to come up with an estimate of how many machines are infected by Conficker-C for the first time.

Vietnamese antivirus firm Bkis reckons 1.3m machines are infected with Conficker-C. A breakdown of infections by country, compiled by Bkis, can be found here. The combined number of computers infected by Conficker A and B is 2.2m, according to Bkis.

That total of around 3.5m is in line with a detailed technical analysis by Conficker which puts the size of the Conficker botnet at between three and four million strong.

IBM's X-Force has a mash-up using Google Maps or Conficker infections across the world, which can be found here. The Conficker Working Group has published more detailed infection maps here.

Estimates of the number of machines ever infected by Conficker vary from ten to 15 million, but these figures ignored disinfections and other factors. It's more meaningful to talk of the current number of zombie drones rather than the number ever infected, because it gives a much better idea of the potential for harm.

As predicted by security watchers beforehand, Conficker's 1 April "activation" passed by without anything happening, much like previous malware trigger dates associated with nuisances such as the Michelangelo virus (1992), CIH (1999), SoBig (2003), and MyDoom (2004). The unknown authors of Conficker didn't publish updates on 1 April, but since infected machines check for updates on a daily basis it would be wrong to think that the threat has passed. Updates using the P2P mechanism built into the worm are also possible.

F-Secure has compiled an updated, informative FAQ on Conficker here, which cover important questions such as how to tell if you're infected and much more besides. Conficker blocks access to security sites, a factor exploited by Joe Stewart of the Conficker Working Group to create a simple test here. ®

Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL

More from The Register

next story
Hackers pop Brazil newspaper to root home routers
Step One: try default passwords. Step Two: Repeat Step One until success
UK.gov lobs another fistful of change at SME infosec nightmares
Senior Lib Dem in 'trying to be relevant' shocker. It's only taxpayers' money, after all
Critical Adobe Reader and Acrobat patches FINALLY make it out
Eight vulns healed, including XSS and DoS paths
Spies would need SUPER POWERS to tap undersea cables
Why mess with armoured 10kV cables when land-based, and legal, snoop tools are easier?
TOR users become FBI's No.1 hacking target after legal power grab
Be afeared, me hearties, these scoundrels be spying our signals
Blood-crazed Microsoft axes Trustworthy Computing Group
Security be not a dirty word, me Satya. But crevice, bigod...
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
Freenode IRC users told to change passwords after securo-breach
Miscreants probably got in, you guys know the drill by now
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.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.