Feeds

Zeus botnets suffer mighty blow after ISP taken offline

One quarter of C&C channels vanish

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

At least a quarter of the command and control servers linked to Zeus-related botnets have suddenly gone quiet, continuing a recent trend of takedowns hitting some of the world's most nefarious cyber operations.

The massive drop is the result of actions taken by two Eastern European network providers. On Tuesday, they pulled the plug on their downstream customers, including an ISP known a Troyak, according to Mary Landesman, a senior researcher with ScanSafe, a web security firm recently acquired by Cisco Systems. That in turn severed the connections of servers used to control large numbers of computers infected by a do-it-yourself crime kit known as Zeus.

Landesman said she was able to confirm figures provided by Zeus Tracker that found the number of active control servers related to Zeus had dropped from 249 to 181. The takedown came on Tuesday around 10:22 am GMT and was heralded by a sudden drop off in the number of malware attacks ScanSafe blocks from affected IP addresses.

The takedown is the result of two network service providers, Ukraine-based Ihome and Russia-based Oversun Mercury, severing their ties with Troyak, said Landesman, who cited data returned by Robotex.com. The move meant that all the ISP's customers, law-abiding or otherwise, were immediately unable to connect to the outside world.

"That's a pretty interesting development and I think a very positive one, because they're now putting the shared costs on the network service provider," Landesman told The Register. "There's not always a lot of impetus for these network service providers to take action, but as soon as you have such a severe repercussion where they're actually not able to serve any of their customers, legitimate or otherwise, they're now sharing in that cost."

The takedown comes a week after authorities in Spain and the United States clipped the wings of the Mariposa botnet. One of the world's biggest botnets, it controlled almost 13 million infected computers and infiltrated more than half of the Fortune 1000 companies. Late last month, Microsoft was able to disrupt the Waledac botnet by obtaining a court-issued order against scores of domains associated with the spam-spewing menace.

In November 2008, upstream providers terminated service to McColo, a San Jose, California-based ISP accused of providing service to a large percentage of the world's spammers, malware purveyors and child pornographers.

It still remains to be seen how significant a victory the latest takedown will be. In the two days leading up to it, Zeus-related malware attacks spiked to unprecedented levels, Landesman said, going from a little less than one per cent of the blocks ScanSafe performs on behalf of its customers to more than 10 per cent.

That has touched off speculation that the people running the botnets had advance notice that allowed them to build new botnets that would be unaffected by the action.

"It's certainly an odd coincidence," Landesman said. "I think it's an indication of possible forewarning and an attempt to get new bots out there." ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.