Feeds

Chameleon botnet grabbed $6m A MONTH from online ad-slingers

Click fraudster bot fingered after analysts crack its signature

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A web analytics firm has sniffed out a botnet that was raking in $6m a month from online advertisers.

The so-called Chameleon botnet mimicked human visitors on select websites, causing billions of display ad impressions to be served to compromised machines. As many as 120,000 infected drones have been discovered so far. Almost all of the over 202 websites targeted in the scam are located in the US. In some cases, two-thirds of the websites' traffic was generated from zombie machines.

All the bot browsers report themselves as being Internet Explorer 9.0 running on Windows 7.

The advertisers cough up a few pennies every time an ad is viewed, and the ad network, ad exchanges and the publisher all take their share.

The malign traffic was difficult to identify because the malware used a hundreds of thousands of different ad-exchange cookies. These characteristics earned the malware behind the scam the Chameleon moniker.

Click fraud as a revenue generation model for zombie networks is far from unprecedented. For example, the Bamital botnet taken down by Microsoft and Symantec last month also made money through advertising fraud. However the Chameleon malware is reckoned to be the most sophisticated botnet software of its type to appear to date.

Chameleon affects display ad advertisers and not just text link advertisers. Individual bots within the Chameleon botnet run on host machines with Microsoft Windows as the operating system. Bots access the web through a flash-enabled Trident-based browser that executes JavaScript.

The bots subject host machines to heavy load, and the bots appear to crash and restart regularly. These crashes and idiosyncratic site-traversal patterns are just two of the many bot features that provide for a distinctive bot signature that eventually allowed London-based web analytics firm spider.io to track fraudulent behaviour associated with the malware and draw up a blacklist of compromised IP addresses in association with its ad exchange partners.

"Spider.io has been tracking anomalous behaviour associated with Chameleon botnet since December, 2012, and in February of this year the extent of the Chameleon botnet’s principal web-browsing activity was established," an advisory by spider.io explains.

"This was achieved as part of spider.io’s broader work with leading display ad exchanges and demand-side platforms to identify deviant consumption of display advertising media. In particular, DataXu and Media6Degrees have been proactive partners."

Spider.io was born out of Imperial College London. ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
Israeli spies rebel over mass-snooping on innocent Palestinians
'Disciplinary treatment will be sharp and clear' vow spy-chiefs
Google recommends pronounceable passwords
Super Chrome goes into battle with Mr Mxyzptlk
Infosec geniuses hack a Canon PRINTER and install DOOM
Internet of Stuff securo-cockups strike yet again
THREE QUARTERS of Android mobes open to web page spy bug
Metasploit module gobbles KitKat SOP slop
'Speargun' program is fantasy, says cable operator
We just might notice if you cut our cables
Apple Pay is a tidy payday for Apple with 0.15% cut, sources say
Cupertino slurps 15 cents from every $100 purchase
Snowden, Dotcom, throw bombs into NZ election campaign
Claim of tapped undersea cable refuted by Kiwi PM as Kim claims extradition plot
YouTube, Amazon and Yahoo! caught in malvertising mess
Cisco says 'Kyle and Stan' attack is spreading through compromised ad networks
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.