Feeds

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

Click fraudster bot fingered after analysts crack its signature

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

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. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Tor attack nodes RIPPED MASKS off users for 6 MONTHS
Traffic confirmation attack bared users' privates - but to whom?
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
prev story

Whitepapers

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.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.