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Stealth virus warning sounded again
From: "Random Letters" <randomisedletters () hotmail com>
Date: Wed, 25 May 2005 14:45:56 +0000
Virus authors are choosing not to create global epidemics--such as Melissa
or Blaster--because that distracts them from their core business of creating
and selling botnets, according to antivirus experts.
Botnets are groups of computers that have been infected by malware that
allows the author to control the infected PCs, and then typically use them
to send spam or launch DDoS attacks.
Speaking at the AusCERT conference on Australia's Gold Coast on Tuesday,
Eugene Kaspersky, founder of Kaspersky Labs, said that the influence of
organised crime on the malware industry has led to a change of tactics,
echoing comments made in March of this year by Mikko Hyppönen of F-Secure.
Instead of trying to create viruses and worms that infect as many computers
as possible, malware authors are instead trying to infect 5,000 or 10,000
computers at a time to create personalized zombie armies.
"Do I need a million computers to send spam? No. To do a DDoS attack, 5,000
or 10,000 PCs is more than enough. That is why virus writers and hackers
have changed their tactics of infection--they don't need a global epidemic,"
According to Kaspersky, organized criminals are advertising networks of
zombie computers for rent on underground newsgroups and Web pages. When they
receive an order for a botnet of a certain size, they set about trying to
infect computers using infected email attachments or socially-engineered
spam with links to malicious Web pages. As soon as they infect enough
computers to fulfill the order, they stop using that particular piece of
"It seems that if, say, the virus author needs 5,000 infected computers,
they put the Trojan on a Web page and wait for 5,000 machines to be
infected. Then they remove the Trojan because that is enough. When they get
a new request for another zombie network, they release a new Trojan--they
are able to control the number of infected computers," said Kaspersky.
Adam Biviano, senior systems engineer at antivirus firm Trend Micro, agrees.
He said that by only infecting a relatively small number of computers, the
malware has a better chance of flying 'under the radar' and not being
spotted by antivirus companies.
"It makes sense to have a discreet number of PCs under your control and be
able to sell that on," said Biviano, who added: "With 5,000 PCs under your
control--none of which are being destroyed or showing actual qualifiable
damage as a result--you will fit under the radar, probably make some money
and you probably won't get arrested."
Kaspersky said that to fight this new tactic antivirus companies have to be
more thorough by scouring Web pages and e-mail attachments for new and
obscure pieces of malware--to ensure as few Trojans as possible get through
"Before releasing the new infected code they test it using antivirus
scanners and they don't release the new Trojan or worm if it is detected. I
believe that if only 1,000 machines are infected, anti-virus companies will
never receive the infected file. That is why antivirus companies have to
collect data reactively and get samples as quickly as possible," said
Vincent Gullotto, vice-president of McAfee's antivirus emergency response
team, told ZDNet Australia that antivirus companies are responding to the
new threat by proactively seeking out new forms of malware.
"It is standard for us, Kaspersky, Symantec and some of the other prominent
antivirus companies scour the Web in many different ways. We go out looking
for [malware] with a very aggressive search and we do passive searches where
we have machines that are just sitting around waiting to get attacked. When
we see a machine getting attacked we grab a sample rather quickly so we can
add it to our database," said Gullotto.
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- Stealth virus warning sounded again Random Letters (May 25)