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Koobface takedown exposes money trail

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A Koobface server takedown operation which began over the weekend has already shed new light into the operations of the infamous botnet.

UK ISP Coreix unplugged command and control servers linked to the worm on Friday as part of a wider takedown operation spearheaded by Canadian security firm SecDev. Nart Villeneuve, head of the SecDev team, has informed other ISPs about compromised FTP accounts as well as notifying Google and Facebook about accounts abused by Koobface as part of a wide-ranging effort to curtail malicious activity associated with the infamous botnet.

Previous takedown efforts have had a positive effect, at least temporarily, but Koobface is particularly sophisticated and resilient. The botnet has hauled itself up from the canvas after previous heavy blows and few security watchers expect it to stay down for the count this time around, even after taking a series of particularly heavy blows.

As part of their takedown efforts the SecDev team infiltrated a server used to send daily updates of illicit revenues raked in by the worm via SMS messages to four mobile numbers in Russia. Daily revenues sent through the Paymar payment system varied between $1,000 and $20,000 a day according to these figures, IDG reports.

Researchers at SecDev reckon the Koobface gang have made an estimated $2m since the first appearance of the worm in July 2008. Around half this income came from promoting sales of scareware (fake anti-virus) products while the rest came through click fraud and other scams.

Koobface targets surfers on Facebook and other social networks, typically encouraging prospective marks to execute malware packages disguised as Flash updates supposedly needed to view lurid or shocking content. Once executed the malware turns compromised PCs into zombie drones under the control of hackers. ®

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