Feeds

Cybercrime's bulletproof hosting exposed

Zeus botnets' tangled web

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Researchers at RSA have identified the network framework that endows some of the worlds most notorious botnets with always-on connections that are virtually immune from takedowns.

At the network's heart are the servers that shepherd tens of thousands of infected PCs so they continue to send spam, spread malware and stay updated with the latest bot software. By maintaining multiple conduits between these master control channels and the outside world, malware gangs are able to create highly redundant networks that are extremely difficult for authorities and whitehats to shut down.

"What they've worked really hard to do for themselves is build a spiderweb of connections to the outer ring if the outer ring were the internet at large," Sean Brady, manager of RSA's identity protection and verification group, told The Register. "As you start picking off threads, they work to reroute, to crawl along different threads."

The analysis explains how an ISP - or in internet parlance, an autonomous system - known as AS-Troyak was able to reconnect to the internet shortly after two of its upstream providers severed its ties. Such bulletproof connectivity is a chief selling point to botnet operators, who are willing to pay premiums to ensure they don't lose contact with the machines they worked so hard to infect.

Near the center of the spiderweb are eight networks dedicated to keeping ISPs such as Troyak connected no matter what may happen. According to RSA, they are:

  • Citygame, AS12604
  • Vishclub, AS50369
  • Smila, AS50390
  • Mariam UA, AS42229
  • Prombuddetal, AS44107
  • VVPN, AS49934
  • Vesteh, AS47560, and
  • Bogonet, AS47821

Surrounding these networks are the ISPs that host the command and control channels. Besides Troyak, they include:

  • Profitlan, AS12383
  • Taba, AS8287
  • Smallshop, AS31366, and
  • Ya, AS44051

These ISPs are connected to nine upstream ISPs that are believed to be law-abiding businesses. If for any reason, these legitimate ISPs pull the plug - as Ihome and Oversun-Mercury are believed to have done last week - Troyak and the other four networks can fall back on the bulletproof hosts, which have their own upstream providers.

That appears to be what Troyak did some 36 hours after it lost connectivity. As a result, many of the Zeus-related bots that had been orphaned were able to find their way home again.

The resilience of bot-friendly hosts has to be more than a little discouraging for the whitehats who have spent so much time trying to take the menaces offline. But RSA's Brady said there are only a finite number of upstream providers for the ISPs to rely on.

"You get enough of them and eventually, you're going to knock this whole thing offline."

What's more, security blogger Dancho Danchev wrote here, the outages, even if temporary, challenge a core value proposition of the providers: that their bulletproof services are immune to costly interruptions.

"Not only does this mean disruption of their operations, but most importantly, loss of confidence on behalf of their customers in Troyak-AS's ability to stay online," he wrote. "What the cybercriminals are forgetting, is the fact that every time they attempt to obtain access to the botnets, they sacrifice their OPSEC (operational security)."

RSA's analysis is here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
You really need to do some tech support for Aunty Agnes
Free anti-virus software, expires, stops updating and p0wns the world
USB coding anarchy: Consider all sticks licked
Thumb drive design ruled by almighty buck
Attack reveals 81 percent of Tor users but admins call for calm
Cisco Netflow a handy tool for cheapskate attackers
Privacy bods offer GOV SPY VICTIMS a FREE SPYWARE SNIFFER
Looks for gov malware that evades most antivirus
Patch NOW! Microsoft slings emergency bug fix at Windows admins
Vulnerability promotes lusers to domain overlords ... oops
Oi, Europe! Tell US feds to GTFO of our servers, say Microsoft and pals
By writing a really angry letter about how it's harming our cloud business, ta
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
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.
Managing SSL certificates with ease
The lack of operational efficiencies and compliance pitfalls associated with poor SSL certificate management, and how the right SSL certificate management tool can help.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.