Feeds

Sinkholes reveal more Chinese-hacked biz - and piggybacking crims

It's not just state-backed spies using snoop-ware armies

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Researchers have identified yet more high-profile organisations attacked by spying Chinese hackers after seizing hold of the miscreants' command-and-control servers.

Dell SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit (CTU) said that its tactic of "sinkholing" spyware-controlled systems is great for identifying custom malware and warning victims. It typically involves taking over the criminals' domain names to trick their armies of malware-infected computers - known as botnets - into communicating with the researchers' servers. While holding the reins, security experts can study a botnet, find out what sort of snooping the malware is capable of, learn more about its masters and potentially disrupt its villainous activities.

According to Dell SecureWorks, the technique has shed a light on several highly targeted espionage efforts that might otherwise have gone undetected. Victims include a US university conducting military research, we're told.

Sinkholing is not new in computer security: Dell SecureWorks applied it against the Kelihos spam-spewing botnet last year and Polish researchers applied it against Virut last month, for example. Using the tactic against groups dubbed advanced persistent threats (APTs) is a new twist, however: multiple botnets, each using a different Trojan or virus strain to infect machines, could be sharing the same command server.

"You may know eight malware facilities but by sink-holing an APT domain you can find out about another two," explained Silas Cutler, a security researcher at Dell SecureWorks CTU.

This information can be useful in linking malware families based on the shared infrastructure that attackers use to control the infected computers as well as providing proof that an entire network has been compromised.

Ordinary cybercrooks caught using cyber-espionage tools

Dell SecureWorks has linked 300 different families of malware to cyber-espionage attacks. And it's clear that conventional online crooks are using malware primarily designed for cyber-espionage for their own nefarious purposes, such as attacks apparently aimed at stealing online gaming login IDs.

One case identified by Dell SecureWorks uncovered evidence that Protux - a software nasty first detected in spear-phishing expeditions against Tibetan activists in 2008 and attacks against US government agencies - was used in an attack primarily geared against Indian ISP customers. Sinkholing three expired web domains associated with Protux revealed that two of the addresses had been used for regular cybercrime while another was employed in a much more limited and targeted espionage project.

Joe Stewart, director of malware research at Dell SecureWorks CTU, explained that in most cases security researchers take control of a hacker's domain because it either expired or was seized in an internet property ownership dispute. Domains used in APT campaigns sometimes mimic those of the industrial firms and others they target.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
One HUNDRED FAMOUS LADIES exposed NUDE online
Celebrity women victimised as Apple iCloud accounts reportedly popped
Rubbish WPS config sees WiFi router keys popped in seconds
Another day, another way in to your home router
Goog says patch⁵⁰ your Chrome
64-bit browser loads cat vids FIFTEEN PERCENT faster!
NIST to sysadmins: clean up your SSH mess
Too many keys, too badly managed
Scratched PC-dispatch patch patched, hatched in batch rematch
Windows security update fixed after triggering blue screens (and screams) of death
Researchers camouflage haxxor traps with fake application traffic
Honeypots sweetened to resemble actual workloads, complete with 'secure' logins
Attack flogged through shiny-clicky social media buttons
66,000 users popped by malicious Flash fudging add-on
New Snowden leak: How NSA shared 850-billion-plus metadata records
'Federated search' spaffed info all over Five Eyes chums
Three quarters of South Korea popped in online gaming raids
Records used to plunder game items, sold off to low lifes
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.