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Twitter-controlled botnets come to the unwashed masses

'Script kiddies everywhere are salivating'

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A security researcher has unearthed a tool that simplifies the process of building bot armies that take their marching orders from specially created Twitter accounts.

TwitterNet Builder offers script kiddies a point-type-and-click interface that forces infected PCs to take commands from a Twitter account under the control of attackers. Bot herders can then force the zombies to carry out denial-of-service attacks or silently download and install software with the ease of their Twitter-connected smartphones.

"All in all, a very slick tool and no doubt script kiddies everywhere are salivating over the prospect of hitting a website with a DDoS from their mobile phones," Christopher Boyd, a researcher with anti-virus provider Sunbelt Software, writes here.

Alas, TwitterNet Builder requires accounts to be public, so spotting people who use the software is fairly straightforward. A quick search revealed accounts here, here and here that appeared to be using the DIY kit, although it appeared these might be harmless demonstrations rather than brazen attacks.

Still, it would be fairly straightforward to modify the tool so it uses private accounts, or even stealthier still, uses base64 encoding so commands appear indecipherable to the naked eye, as a previous Twitter-based bot herders did.

As law enforcement and white-hat hackers have cracked down on IRC servers and other traditional forms of command and control channels, bot herders have looked for alternate methods to update their fleets of compromised machines. Twitter is by no means the only example of this cloud-based model. Other services that have been tapped include Facebook, Google's AppEngine and Google Groups. ®

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