Feeds

Feds declare victory over notorious Coreflood botnet

Unprecedented take-down gets results

High performance access to file storage

Federal authorities say they have crippled a notorious botnet that penetrated some of the world's most sensitive organizations, thanks to an unprecedented take-down strategy that used a government-run server that communicated directly with infected PCs.

Coreflood, as the network of compromised computers is known, enslaved almost 800,000 machines when the FBI commenced the operation in April. By the second week of June, the number was so small it was barely discernible on a chart the agency submitted in a recent affidavit. In all, computers reporting to the botnet's command and control channel fell by more than 95 percent, an FBI special agent wrote in a court filing.

Chart of Coreflood infected computers

"Operation Adeona," as the take-down effort was called, adopted a novel approach that could become a model for future actions. Most notably, it used a substitute command server that issued “stop” commands to the zombie machines which disabled the Coreflood malware until the next reboot. The operation also called for the government to work with internet service providers to identify the owners of infected machines so authorities could then get permission to permanently zap the malware.

It was the first time US government authorities had ever issued commands to a compromised PC they didn't operate. The action was designed to prevent Coreflood operators from setting up new servers that would resurrect the botnet in the weeks or months following the effort.

Only 24 identifiable victims agreed to let the FBI issue the uninstall command, but the consent still resulted in the instruction being sent to 19,000 computers, Special Agent Kenneth Keller wrote in a declaration filed in federal court last week. None of the machines suffered adverse consequences.

The operation was also novel in the way government authorities worked with ISPs and antivirus providers to identify and disinfect compromised end users. By the end of May, more than 20 of the major AV products detected the latest versions of the Coreflood malware. Combined with the suspension of any new variations that could evade detection, that gave users time to permanently rid their machines of the infections.

As a result, Keller said the FBI wanted to shut down the server used to communicate with infected machines, so the government could direct the considerable cost of running and monitoring it to other endeavors.

"While the Coreflood software will begin to run on still-infected computers once the substitute server is taken out of operation, the seizure of the Coreflood domains will continue reasonably to prevent the defendants from obtaining access to those computers or to data stolen from those computers," he wrote.

Coreflood had infected more than two-million Windows machines since 2002. During and 11-month period starting in March 2009, Coreflood siphoned some 190GB worth of banking passwords and other sensitive data from more than 413,000 infected users as they browsed the net, authorities have said.

The explosive growth in computer-based crime over the past years often leaves the good guys with the sense they're raking leaves on a windy day. Like Microsoft's recent win over the Rustock botnet, the near eradication of Coreflood is a rare exception. Here's hoping they're not the last. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Obama allows NSA to exploit 0-days: report
If the spooks say they need it, they get it
Parent gabfest Mumsnet hit by SSL bug: My heart bleeds, grins hacker
Natter-board tells middle-class Britain to purée its passwords
Web data BLEEDOUT: Users to feel the pain as Heartbleed bug revealed
Vendors and ISPs have work to do updating firmware - if it's possible to fix this
OpenSSL Heartbleed: Bloody nose for open-source bleeding hearts
Bloke behind the cockup says not enough people are helping crucial crypto project
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Call of Duty 'fragged using OpenSSL's Heartbleed exploit'
So it begins ... or maybe not, says one analyst
German space centre endures cyber attack
Chinese code retrieved but NSA hack not ruled out
Experian subsidiary faces MEGA-PROBE for 'selling consumer data to fraudster'
US attorneys general roll up sleeves, snap on gloves
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.