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OPLIN 4Cast #202: The Business of Bots

Posted in 4cast

robotNow that we’ve left Cybersecurity Awareness Month behind us (October, but you might not have seen it on your calendar) as well as the barrage of robot calls that always precedes an election, it seems like a good time to catch up on the news from the world of botnets, the pesky tools of cyber criminals that can take control of public PCs and turn them into bot zombies under the control of nasty people. We’re not trying to give you a post-Halloween scare—if you keep your security software up to date you should be OK—we just thought it’s interesting how similar the criminal botnet business is to many other online business ventures.

  • The rise of the small botnet (Security Week/Ram Mohan) “Today, would-be criminals can choose to buy the latest version of kits such as ZeuS, or even ready-made botnets, for as little as $2,500, which is not a large sum when you consider that the potential rewards could quickly add up to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Cracked versions of such tools are sometimes made available for free, which has caused some toolkit developers to add DRM protections to their software. Indeed, this industry has even taken advantage of the ease and scalability of cloud-based business models allowing customers to ‘rent’ their fully hosted botnet solutions for as little as $60 a day.”
  • Botnet for sale business going strong (eWeek/Brian Prince) “In the cyber-underground, botnet victims are a form of currency, Gunter Ollmann, vice president of research at Damballa, told eWEEK. A particular management tool may cost $500 to purchase but could be traded for 4,000 bot victims in the U.K., for example. The hurdles to building a botnet are so low now ‘any man and his dog can get started in this business,’ he said.”
  • The “Iranian Cyber Army” strikes back (Seculert Research Lab) “There are numerous different exploit kits being sold in underground forums among cyber criminals. Competition in this crowded and lucrative market is driving authors to create exploit kits with sleek and sexy user interfaces, so the product will be more attractive to potential customers.”
  • Japan has national botnet warriors (Ars Technica/Matthew Lasar) “Cyber Clean does the usual good stuff, trying to raise public awareness about the dangers of bots. […] But the Cyber Clean operation goes a massive step further than public education. It searches for bot-infected PCs, then engages in a series of ‘attention rousing activities’ to get the user to realize that her computer has been hijacked.”

Japan fact:
The .jp (Japan) Internet domain is one of the world’s safest domains, ranking only behind .edu and .travel for lack of threats from malware, browser exploits, spam, aggressive pop-ups, and suspicious affiliations.