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Mexican Twitter-controlled botnet unpicked

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Security researchers have discovered another botnet that uses Twitter as a command and control channel.

Malware-infected drones in the Mehika Twitter botnet, active in Mexico this summer, take instructions from a Twitter account maintained by hackers instead of conventional command and control servers. The use of Twitter as a botnet command channel was first detected in August 2009 before similar techniques were applied to abuse Facebook profiles as command channels a few months later in November.

Cybercrooks gain a number of advantages in using social networks as alternative command channels, explained Trend Micro senior threat researcher Ranieri Romera.

"Using a social networking site does not require installation, configuration, and command-and-control (C&C) server management," Romera writes. "Instead, posting messages in a specific account can instantly send out commands and instructions to zombies."

Botnet control instructions can easily be lost in the chatter on Twitter, he added.

Rik Ferguson, a UK-based security researcher at Trend Micro, said the Mehika bonnet fell silent almost as soon as it was detected, back in July. "The bot client was located 15 July and this is the date also of all the latest commands seen, so [it was] theoretically down at that date," he told El Reg.

The Mehika bonnet was one of four botnets to affect web users in Mexico analysed in greater depth in a new research paper from Trend Micro, titled Discerning Relationships: The Mexican Botnet Connection, published on Monday. The four zombie networks share the common use of PHP scripts in their construction. The other networks were the Tequila, Mariachi and Alebrije botnets. The zombie networks were collectively involved in all types of cybercrime malfeasance including spamming, phishing and serving as a platform for DDoS attacks. ®

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