Thursday, February 21, 2008

Canada busts 17 in botnet ring

This morning Canada arrested 17 people of ages ranging from 17 to 26 years old for running botnets containing "up to one million computers" in 100 countries. They face charges that could result in up to 10 years in prison.

This barely scratches the surface of online criminal activity. Niels Provos of Google did a study (PDF) that found that of 4.5 million websites scanned between March of 2006 and February of 2007, 450,000 of them attempt to load malware on visiting machines. Sophos' similar survey in July of last year that found that 29% of websites host malware, 28% host porn or gambling content, and 19% are spam-related. Drive-by malware installations (where merely visiting a website causes malware to be loaded onto your machine) are definitely the method of choice for creating botnets today. I recommend using Firefox with the NoScript plugin and the MyWOT plugin to help prevent getting infected by such sites.

Tomorrow, I'll be attending a New Mexico InfraGard conference at which I hope to learn more about recent malware trends (and get my copy of Catch Me If You Can and/or The Art of the Steal autographed by their author). This is another one open to the general public, so I expect no talk about "shoot to kill" powers except in jest.

UPDATE (February 22, 2008): I'm quoted in Brian Jackson's article on the Quebec botnet hacker bust on I'm not entirely happy with the quotes attributed to me--I didn't say "tens of millions," though I said there have been botnets with more than a million hosts, and there are multiple millions of compromised hosts out there. If tens of millions is not accurate today, it will be in the future. The other quotation about IRC got a little bit garbled, but is not far off--I made the point that the bots of today have evolved from a combination of IRC bots of the past combined with denial of service attack tools, remote access trojans, and other malware, and many of them still use IRC as their mode of communication.

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