Spamhaus report shows many botnet controllers look a lot like legitimate servers

Posted by   Martijn Grooten on   Jan 9, 2018

Of all the annual security reports and blog posts that look back at the previous year, that of Spamhaus is one I particularly look forward to, as it always comes with good and interesting data.

Though The Spamhaus Project is probably best known for its blacklists that are widely used for filtering spam, its researchers also keep track of botnet activity, and the non-profit publishes lists of IP addresses and domains used by botnets for command and control (C&C).

It is these C&C servers (or botnet controllers) that its Botnet Threat Report focuses on, and I think it's worth reading to get a good idea of how botnet owners choose hosting providers, top-level domains and domain registrars. It turns out that they tend to go for the popular ones.

The hosting provider most commonly used to host C&C servers is Amazon Web Services, though OVH (another very large hosting provider) is slightly more popular if one also includes compromised services used for the purpose. The most popular top-level domain used for C&C is .com, and the large Namecheap is most commonly used as a domain registrar.

None of this should be very surprising, but it does show that fighting botnets is a lot more complicated than simply blocking all Russian hosting providers, all Chinese registrars and new gTLDs like .space: even if one is willing to ignore the many false positives such an approach no doubt generates, a whole lot will still fall through the maze.

The report does point out that there is a category of C&C servers that can't be tied to hosting providers, registrars and TLDs: those using Tor's Onion Services. To mitigate the risk of botnets using these kinds C&C servers, I agree with Spamhaus: Tor should be disabled by default and only be turned on for and by people who need it.

spamhaus_botnet_geolocation.png

twitter.png
fb.png
linkedin.png
hackernews.png
reddit.png

 

Latest posts:

New paper: LokiBot: dissecting the C&C panel deployments

First advertised as an information stealer and keylogger when it appeared in underground forums in 2015, LokiBot has added various capabilities over the years and has affected many users worldwide. In a new paper researcher Aditya Sood analyses the…

VB2019 presentation: Building secure sharing systems that treat humans as features not bugs

In a presentation at VB2019 in London, Virtru's Andrea Limbago described how, by exploring data sharing challenges through a socio-technical lens, it is possible to make significant gains toward the secure sharing systems and processes that are vital…

VB2019 presentation: Attor: spy platform with curious GSM fingerprinting

Attor is a newly discovered cyber-espionage platform, use of which dates back to at least 2014 and which focuses on diplomatic missions and governmental institutions. Details of Attor were presented at VB2019 in London by ESET researcher Zuzana…

Why we encourage newcomers and seasoned presenters alike to submit a paper for VB2020

With the call for papers for VB2020 currently open, we explain why, whether you've never presented before or you're a conference circuit veteran, if you have some interesting research to share with the community we want to hear from you!

VB2019 paper: The cake is a lie! Uncovering the secret world of malware-like cheats in video games

At VB2019 in London, Kaspersky researcher Santiago Pontiroli presented a paper on the growing illegal economy around video game cheats and its parallels with the malware industry. Today we publish both Santiago's paper and the recording of his…

We have placed cookies on your device in order to improve the functionality of this site, as outlined in our cookies policy. However, you may delete and block all cookies from this site and your use of the site will be unaffected. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to Virus Bulletin's use of data as outlined in our privacy policy.