The Koobface botnet, popularly known for using pay-per install and pay-per click mechanisms yearning huge amount for its masterminds has recently been upgraded with a classy traffic direction system (TDS). The TDS controls all the traffic that are related to affiliated websites, reports security researchers at security firm, Trend Micro.

The TDS feature forwards the traffic into various other locations and proves to be helpful in gaining hefty amount for the crooks through access into specific sites.

With Google going stricter with their creation of botnets that combats creation of fake e-mail accounts by spammers, cyber criminals are taking privilege of Yahoo mail for the accomplishment of their task.

Immediately, once the creation of the e-mail accounts is over, innumerable other accounts are created on social networking sites, such as FC2, Tumblr, FriendFeed, Twitter, livedoor, So-net, and Blogger.

As the process continues, images are gathered through a novel binary component, which collects pictures of celebrities, cars and any other images that might attract innocent users.

In the last stage, the botnet generates blog posts that are conducted through a malware component creating blog accounts, whereas the others recover matters or blog posts that are stored in the proxy command-and-control (C&C) server.

These posts are uploaded automatically to the intended platforms. The posts are comprised of links, images, and keywords, which aids in increasing the sites’ search engine optimization (SEO) ranking, together with an obfuscated JavaScript code that conceals the references of TDS domain of the botnet.

As a result, the TDS can easily follow the visits to each of the blog post and redirect the visitors to the sites that are affiliated by the botnets. The botnet helps in earning money through the clicks made by victims while they are reading blog posts and also from the traffic that the TDS directs to the chosen final landing sites.

However, for increasing the traffic to the nasty blog posts further, the Koobface gang also circulates keywords on the Web that are inter-related and promotes the posts through various social networking websites. These are undertaken with the assistance of numerous binary components that are catered by each site, as reported by security researchers at Trend Micro.

A former aide of the ruling Grand National Party lawmaker, Choi Gu-sik, has confessed to the charges, of hacking into the National Election Commission website, on the day of the October by-election.
According to the National Police Agency, the suspect, identified by his surname “Gong,” took sole responsibility, for carrying out a distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attack on the website, adding that, he was NOT ordered to do so by any high-ranking officials.
He confessed that, he wanted to help the GNP win the Seoul mayoral race, and thought the best way to do so, was to hack into the site to keep young voters from voting for the opposition candidate, Park Won-soon.
The cyber attack on election day, made information on voting locations inaccessible.

Analysis: The FBI just took down a criminal botnet that hijacked more 4 million PCs worldwide. Is your PC among those haunted by Ghost Click?

Yeah, I know: you just can’t get enough news about Herman Cain, Joe Paterno, and that aircraft carrier-sized asteroidthat just went whizzing by our planet. But you may have missed a story that is in many ways more important: Operation Ghost Click.

Earlier this week the FBI and international law authorities took down the biggest criminal botnet yet – some 4 million zombie PCs, all controlled by a band of Estonian cyber thieves doing business as an allegedly legitimate company called Rove Digital (no relation to Karl).

Rove performed all kinds of digital malfeasance — including the sale of fake antivirus software, distribution of malware, replacing legitimate ads on Web sites with their own, and generating fake clicks to pull in ad revenue – while pretending to be a real IT firm.

They did it by distributing malware that took over the Domain Name System (DNS) settings on PCs and network routers. DNS servers translate URLs (like www.itworld.com) into IP addresses (like66.77.79.139) that can be read by Internet routers. Change the DNS table to match a legit URL with an illegitimate IP address, and you can do all kinds of nasty things to the computers that visit that Web site.

To maximize their reach, Rove hijacked popular sites like iTunes, Netflix, and IRS.gov. The FBI estimates they made at least $14 million through these deeds. But that’s only the money they could find. The actual proceeds are likely an order of magnitude higher.

The Feds estimate that 500,000 of the zombie PCs were located in the US, affecting everyone from individuals to government agencies like NASA.

(I’m pretty sure that at one time I had a computer that was infected with this particular type of malware, known as DNS-Changer. I used to get some insanely strange redirects – like typing Facebook.com into my browser and getting sent to Yahoo instead. Fortunately, that machine has since passed onto the great digital boneyard in the sky.)

How do you know if your machine is one of them? TrendMicro, which aided the FBI in its investigation and had been tracking the activities of Rove and its assorted subsidiaries for more than five years, offers some tips in its CounterMeasures blog.

First, you’ll need to determine the IP address of your DNS server. And yes, it affects Macs as well as Windows machines, so Apple fanboys should pay heed as well. Per TrendMicro’s Rik Ferguson:

On a PC, open the Start menu by clicking the Start button or the Windows icon in the lower left of your screen, in the Search box type “cmd” and hit return (for Windows 95 users, select “Start“, then “Run“).This should open a black window with white text. In this window type “ipconfig /all” and hit return. Look for the entry that reads “DNS Servers” and note down the numeric addresses that are listed there.

On a Mac …click on the Apple icon in the top left of your screen and select “System Preferences“, from the Preferences panel select the “Network” icon. Once this window opens, select the currently active network connection on the left column and over on the right select the DNS tab. note down the addresses of the DNS servers that your computer is configured to use.

You’ll then need to plug that IP address into the FBI’s online database of compromised DNS settingsto find out if yours is among them. If it was (unlucky you) the Feds would like you to fill out a victim’s report. You’ll then need to do a virus scan to find and destroy the malware, then contact your ISP to restore the correct DNS settings.

You can do a quick (and free) online virus scan at Trend Micro’s HouseCall service or PC Pitstop.

For my money, keeping cyber criminals out of my PC (and my life) is more important than who’s running for president or coaching Penn State. As for Asteroid Armageddon? Well, maybe not.

Aggressive action by large IT infrastructure and platform providers helped drive down the volume of phishing attacks over the past summer, but new threats continue to emerge and grow, according to recent threat trend reports.

“It does feel like squeezing a balloon,” said Lars Harvey, CEO of Internet Identity. “The problem is really big and we don’t have that many resources fighting against it.”

But the trend by large stakeholders such as Microsoft and Google of going after bad actors is encouraging, Harvey said. “We’re trying to get control of our infrastructure.”

The presidential and defense websites slipped offline, Internet communications were down, and major media were inaccessible. While the Georgian government tried to cope with the country falling into darkness, Russia launched a physical assault with soldiers and tanks.

One of the main weapons of choice in the 2008 cyberwar was a botnet—a network of infected computers sometimes referred to as “zombie armies,” which work as slaves to a master computer. The main attack from a botnet can take websites offline by overloading them, known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.

There was something unique about this particular botnet though. “When Russia rolled into Georgia they hired a botnet to shut down the country,” Matthew Jonkman, president of the Open Information Security Foundation, said in a phone interview.

“That was years ago and they’ve gotten even better,” Jonkman said.

The hacker underground has grown since the 2008 attacks. Hackers can now be hired through underground forums using anonymous payment methods like BitCoins, botnets can be rented for as little as $5 an hour, and nearly any target can be taken offline or compromised for the right price.

“Cyber attacks designed to knock Web sites off line happen every day, yet shopping for a virtual hit man to launch one of these assaults has traditionally been a dicey affair,” states Brian Krebs on his popular cybersecurity blog, Krebs on Security.

“That’s starting to change: Hackers are openly competing to offer services that can take out a rival online business or to settle a score,” Krebs states.

Hackers for Hire

The Russia-Georgia cyberwar, as well as the Estonia-Russia cyber conflict of 2007, are often referenced as examples of what cyberwar is capable of. Although the attacks on Estonia—one of the world’s most wired countries—did not involve physical attack, virtually the whole country came to a standstill as banks, communications, and government fell victim to cyberattacks.

Even in 2007, however, much of the world was still ignorant of the devastating potential of cyberwar. The risks only came to the forefront after hacker group Anonymous Operations began its “Operation Payback” attacks on companies including Mastercard and PayPal in 2010, retaliating against government actions on information-leaking website WikiLeaks.

Their attacks, and the highly publicized attacks from hacker group LulzSec that came later, highlighted the rise of a new kind of threat. With that, the eyes of the world opened to the flimsy foundation that much of the Internet is built on—one riddled with holes that can be stopped on little more than a whim.

Among the terrible truths of the attacks by Anonymous and LulzSec is that neither group is necessarily skilled when compared to the hacker elite. The majority of them use software or pre-written scripts to launch their attacks—hackers refer to them as “script kiddies,” unworthy of being called hackers. Thus, the companies that have fallen victim to their attacks, often fell to some of the most basic attacks there are—highlighting again the despondent state of digital security.

While these groups have garnered the most attention, the real concern is about the groups that are lesser known—terrorist organizations, state-affiliated hacker groups like the Chinese Honker Union and the Russian Business Network, and the underground elite (“leet”) of the hacker world.

In September, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Janet Napolitano stated “The U.S. has become ‘categorically safer’ since 9/11, but cyber-terrorism now tops the list of security concerns.”

Cyber jihadists are already springing up around the Web, while many, like the Tariq bin Ziyad digital terrorist organization, even offer to train new members who know little or nothing about hacking.

The added threat, however, is that these groups could pull from the same resources as Russia did during their attack on Georgia—weaponizing a botnet, or going to the hired guns on the digital front. “Just as organized crime groups have hired hackers, it is possible that nation states could hire or distantly support jihad networks and launch cyber-attacks through them,” states an April 17 report from Project Cyber Dawn, part of The Cyber Security Forum Initiative.

Meanwhile, concern over groups like Anonymous and lesser-skilled yet active groups like the Iranian Cyber Army are less about where they are now, and much more about what they could become.

The DHS posted a bulletin on Oct. 17 warning that Anonymous may be planning attacks on critical infrastructure, including energy companies and industrial control systems. It adds that while the group seems to lack the ability to hit such targets currently, they may develop the skill.

But the poor state of today’s cybersecurity leaves major gaps. “What we have is in a very fragile state, so anybody who does get organized and goes after it could cause serious damage,” Jonkman said.

He added that a lot of groups, like the Iranian Cyber Army, launch many of their attacks for bragging rights—maybe defacing someone’s website with their logo and a statement. The concern though is that the lesser skilled groups could also pull from the more elite guns-for-hire.

“The ones we should worry about are the ones we don’t know about, and the state-sponsored stuff. Now, these groups can make a lot of noise or be hired by an organization or country to do something,” Jonkman said.

“It could pose a very significant threat, more than the overall threat in general,” he said.