Feeds

Cybercrime's bulletproof hosting exposed

Zeus botnets' tangled web

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

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. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
One HUNDRED FAMOUS LADIES exposed NUDE online
Celebrity women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Rubbish WPS config sees WiFi router keys popped in seconds
Another day, another way in to your home router
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
HP: NORKS' cyber spying efforts actually a credible cyberthreat
'Sophisticated' spies, DIY tech and a TROLL ARMY – report
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
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.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
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.
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?