Vulnerability automation and Botnet “solutions” I expect to see this year

so, what i am going to talk about… a tad bit of history on vulnerabilities and their use on the internet, and then, what we are going to see on corporate, isp and internet security relating to botnets this coming year.

vulnerabilities don’t exist for the sake of vulnerabilities. they are used for something, they are a tool. botnets are much the same, using vulnerabilities on the next layer.

this past year we have seen how disclosed vulnerabilities, patched vulnerabilities and 0days have been utilized by automated kits. an inter-linked system of websites which download malicious code (update the kits), try to infect millions of users from just a couple dozen main hubs, and react to the environment.
if a certain vulnerability is seen to be more successful on certain os types or if one is found to not work, the kit will be fixed accordingly and distributed. often immediately after a patch tuesday, likely that same friday evening.

this way, income can be maximized with the number of infections, data stolen and thus roi. both from the expected response time of the vendors as well as how many victims can be reached in that window.

one such kit is webattacker, which has recently been getting more known in public circles.

where we are

that does it, botnets are mainstream. people did not yet understand the idea that software vulnerabilities facilitate an attack (=are not the attack) and botnets facilitate much the same, only on a different level. i will discuss that further after what interests everybody.

solutions in the coming year!

first, many products in the industry have been implemented successfully in the past, just as solutions of necessity, not “products”. some were successful, some failed. some (services) have been supplied to the rich and connected, some haven’t.
botnets are now main-stream, which means other lesser beings and corporations want these services. they want to be protected in a hostile world. they realize the internet is not a safe place, and plan accordingly.

services we will see more and more of:
*. intelligence (very limited), showing ip addresses for botnet command and control (c&c) servers, which your computers may be connecting to (i.e. compromised).
*. intelligence (very limited), showing ip addresses that you control which show in spam (meaning compromised hosts) or show in other ways in botnet data being collected. mostly, this is spam-oriented and the rest of the intelligence is barely noticeable as of yet.
*. intelligence (very limited) on the millions on millions of credentials (for sites, credit cards, banks, ecommerce systems, etc.) and identities being stolen every single day by massive phishing man-in-the-middle trojan horses.
*. intelligence (very limited) other black listing services.

in the past, a limited version of these services was provided, but very secretly, and at a very high cost.


botnet products on the network can either detect internal problems (such as bots on the corporate or isp network or the spreading of infections) or external problems (such as c&c servers or attacks from the world). these can be based on behavior or intelligence.

solutions, which we discussed in the past and are now going to manifest:

intelligence-based (until now only supplied by select groups to select groups) -
*. known bad ips. etc. much like in spam, only for other realms.
*. known bad urls or domain names. etc. much like in spam, only for other realms.

detection -
*. ids approach (decent but not even close to cutting it),
*. dns monitoring approach (very cool, but is just one approach in a layered solution).
*. netflow approach (proven for years now, only one approach, however useful, which is growing more limited every day).

respond and quarantine -
*. walled garden approach (close off/limit suspicious or confirmed compromised computers until they clean themselves. not successful in current solutions, shows promise).
*. try to fix the situation remotely (solve the vulnerabilities, etc. ahead of time or remove after the fact).

there are several others, but these are the main ones describing the 10 or so products we are about to see (all of which are already available publicly as open source, privately developed tools or unsuccessful solutions due to lack of client awareness and interest).

qos, virtualization and half decent intelligence gathering will come next. other solutions i will not waste breath speaking of right now, they will appear for public consumption once the effectiveness of the solutions above (or the better ones there) is done to dust.

what’s next?

decent, real decent, intelligence, and support response tools to mitigate what you find in conjunction with a response team trained to deal with thousands of real incidents rather than mark check-lists on a couple an hour to a couple a month. that’s simply not being aware of what’s happening in your network.
many of the certs and socs are very trained and high quality, they are not equipped or don’t see what they need to react to nor in most cases are built to deal with this threat.

what’s never going to happen?

with security done right, on a wide-scale, with a decent systems design, network, policy, monitoring and responce – a lot can be done and 0days can also be avoided, even (and especially) with business concerns being put first.

gadi evron,

  • LonerVamp

    Excellent post! I think I need to read it a few more times through the day and week to fully grasp what is all in it.

    Botnets are the big deal lately, even possibly trumping all the application-level 0days (Office) and webapp security lately…mostly because botnets are created using those techniques and can be more devastating when wielded properly.

    I fear that so many types of automated tools and techs on the market now or in the near future will either be too expensive for any but the largest (or wealthiest) organizations to afford, or will not cut it in a botnet/spyware world.

    Signatures are archaic and need to be constantly updated. If we monitor installed programs, they dig deeper and hide better (rootkit-like). If we monitor for signatures, they morph. If we monitor network traffic, they encrypt and tunnel through port 80. If we blacklist known spammers and C&C servers, they go dynamic or P2P (imagine if they decide to get aggressive and mix in so much noise that you blacklist legitimate systems!).

    Each layer of protection will help cut down on the risk, kinda like layering a ball of yarn with a new color and slowly attempting to cover up the previous color with each new pass and revolution. But, again, not many organizations can spend that much time and money and effort on so many efforts. Which puts pressure on companies to come up with single-appliance solutions and such that are obsolete almost by the time they come out.

    Intelligence and tracking all of this stuff down is just more “Whack-a-Mole” futility.

    Or move to more trusted computing platforms or centralized computing. But what works for the organization may not even touch home users. So what happens to home users? Fodder for the botnets?

    It’s quite a wild situation, and I can move from being optimistic or pessimistic (like now :) ) day by day.

  • Tuffer
  • Donald

    The botnet epidemic can not be solved using a sofware solution because they themselves can be targeted and turned off. The problem exists because broadband consumers do not turn their computers off while not in use. I’ve invented a hardware device that will automatically connect or disconnect the network connection without requiring a person to shut their computer down. If broadband machines were no more susceptible than dial up computers, bot herders would be severely crippled.

  • What is a Botnet?

    Software botnet solutions are not viable, unless done at the OS level. And that’s where the effort should be concentrated. Computer users should be taught in school to either use a secure OS, or not the use a computer.