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Botnet speed test uncovers drag racers of malware

Supercharged spam powerhouses revealed

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Researchers have discovered that Zombie machines within the Xarvester and Rustock botnets are capable of sending up to 25,000 junk mail messages per hour.

The speed test, by security researchers at Marshal8e6, found that the two botnets are the muscle cars of the world of malware.

Marshal8e6 deliberately infested its lab computers with nine botnet agents reckoned to be the biggest source of spam or the strongest up-and-comers: Xarvester, Mega-D, Gheg, Grum, Donbot, Pushdo, Bobax, Rustock and Waledac. The botnets established by these strains of malware are thought to be collectively responsible for more than 70 percent of the world’s total volume of junk mail.

Security analysts looked at what changes each strain of malware made to the registry, what ports it communicated over and kept an eye on how much spam each bot type was capable of sending. Xarvester and Rustock threw off the most junk mail, 25K messages an hour or the equivalent of 600K spams a day.

The data on spam rates was harvested from a wider research project into botnets run by Marshal8e6 over the last two years.

"Over the past few years, botnets have revolutionised the spam industry and pushed spam volumes to epidemic proportions despite the best efforts of law enforcement and the computer security industry," said Phil Hay, senior threat analyst, Marshal8e6 TRACElabs. "Our intention was to better understand the origins of spam, and the malware that drives it."

The results of the botnet research can be found here. ®

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