An Inside Look at BotnetsThis is one of the better, most complete overviews of the botnet problem available today. Not surprisingly, it's from a noted security researcher.
The continued growth and diversification of the Internet has been accompanied by an increasing prevalence of attacks and intrusions. It can be argued, however, that a significant change in motivation for malicious activity has taken place over the past several years: from vandalism and recognition in the hacker community, to attacks and intrusions for financial gain. This shift has been marked by a growing sophistication in the tools and methods used to conduct attacks, thereby escalating the network security arms race.Source: A Look Inside Botnets, Barford, Paul and Yegneswaran, Vinod. To appear in Series: Advances in Information Security, Springer, 2006.
Our thesis is that the reactive methods for network security that are predominant today are ultimately insufficient and that more proactive methods are required. One such approach is to develop a foundational understanding of the mechanisms employed by malicious software (malware) which is often readily available in source form on the Internet. While it is well known that large IT security companies maintain detailed databases of this information, these are not openly available and we are not aware of any such open repository. In this paper we begin the process of codifying the capabilities of malware by dissecting four widely-used Internet Relay Chat (IRC) botnet codebases. Each codebase is classified along seven key dimensions including botnet control mechanisms, host control mechanisms, propagation mechanisms, exploits, delivery mechanisms, obfuscation and deception mechanisms. Our study reveals the complexity of botnet software, and we discusses implications for defense strategies based on our analysis.
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