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Infamous Storm botnet rises from the grave

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After blowing itself out 18 months ago, the notorious Storm botnet is back, researchers from CA said Tuesday.

Storm - once responsible for churning out 20 percent of the world's spam - started to peter out in September 2007, when Microsoft targeted it through the Malicious Software Removal Tool. Some 274,372 demonized PCs were exorcised during the first month alone. A year later, researchers from Marshal declared the menace dead.

Now, security watchers at CA say they've spotted a new botnet that bears the hallmarks of Storm and is sending out a "massive volume of spam emails to targeted recipients." An analysis of the command and control servers shows it used Base64 encoded data to send infected machines instructions and templates for junk-mail relating to adult dating services, penis pills and other online pharmacy scams.

"The characteristics and behaviors are very much Storm-related in terms of the command and control and the mechanism that it uses to identify the content of the mail messages and who and how to send them," Don DeBolt, head of CA's research team, told The Register. "It's all utilizing the same tactics and methodologies that the Storm Worm did."

Storm made its debut in early 2007 and got its name from the brutal storms that hit Europe at that time. Its success at pumping out huge amounts of spam helped pave the way for other junkmail botnets such as Srizbi, Mega-D, and Rustock, which borrowed many of the same social-engineering come-ons and other tactics. In addition to the crushing blow from Microsoft, Storm's demise was also brought about by researchers who discovered a design flaw that allowed them disrupt its command and control channels.

CA has identified three varients of Storm that at time of writing were detected by 26, 25 and 24of the top 41 anti-virus products. CA's writeup is here. ®

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