Home / Blogs

Growth in Commercial Sinkholing Operations

Don't miss a thing – sign up for CircleID Weekly Wrap newsletter delivered to your inbox once a week.
Gunter Ollmann

The last couple of years have seen a growth in commercial sinkholing operations. What was once an academic method for studying botnets and other types of Internet-born threat, has more recently turned in to an increasingly profitable business for some organizations.

Yesterday I published a blog on the DarkReading site titled Sinkholing For Profit, and I wanted to expand upon some aspects of the sinkholing discussion (there's only so much you can fit in to 800-ish word limits).

In a nutshell, if you're sinkholing a botnet command and control (CnC) channel you gain a lot of visibility in to the status of the botnet victims. If you manage to sinkhole the data drop site of the botnet or other crimeware campaign, you potentially acquire copies of all the data that is being stolen from the victim's computer. If you're able to spin up a CnC console that's compatible with the crimeware installed upon the victim's computers, you're potentially able to "become" the botmaster.

The information gained from running sinkholes is inherently valuable. In academic circles, sinkholes provide insight in to the growth and demise of Internet threats — which is invaluable for modeling and system training. In the commercial world, depending upon the legal model of the country you're located, there are lots of organizations that are very keen on acquiring information about vulnerable machines around the world.

For example, as countries around the world flesh out their cyber-warfare capabilities and tactics, it's incredibly valuable to know what applications are installed on foreign computers (say in China or Iran), which are vulnerable to remote exploitation and which ones are currently infected with remotely-controllable botnet crimeware.

With the pace of public takedowns of some of the biggest botnets the last couple of years and the use of sinkholes for identifying victims (for the purpose of alerting them to the fact they are infected), there have been more questions concerning who else gets access to the data and (more importantly), once the botnet fades from the media, what happens to the botnet victims and their data? What level of accountability is there for those managing the sinkholes and handling the stolen data?

Obviously this is a concern to law enforcement — particularly those agencies that have participated in various botnet takedowns.

By Gunter Ollmann, Chief Security Officer at Vectra

Related topics: Cyberattack, Cybercrime, Malware, Security

 
   

Comments

To post comments, please login or create an account.

Related Blogs

Related News

Explore Topics

Sponsored Topics

Promoted Posts

Now Is the Time for .eco

.eco launches globally at 16:00 UTC on April 25, 2017, when domains will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. .eco is for businesses, non-profits and people committed to positive change for the planet. See list of registrars offering .eco more»

Boston Ivy Gets Competitive With Its TLDs, Offers Registrars New Wholesale Pricing

With a mission to make its top-level domains available to the broadest market possible, Boston Ivy has permanently reduced its registration, renewal and transfer prices for .Broker, .Forex, .Markets and .Trading. more»

Industry Updates – Sponsored Posts

Leading Internet Associations Strengthen Cooperation

Verisign Releases Q4 2016 DDoS Trends Report: 167% Increase in Average Peak Attack from 2015 to 2016

Verisign Q3 2016 DDoS Trends Report: User Datagram Protocol (UDP) Flood Attacks Continue to Dominate

2016 U.S. Election: An Internet Forecast

Government Guidance for Email Authentication Has Arrived in USA and UK

ValiMail Raises $12M for Its Email Authentication Service

Don't Gamble With Your DNS

Defending Against Layer 7 DDoS Attacks

Understanding the Risks of the Dark Web

New TLD? Make Sure It's Secure

Verisign Releases Q2 2016 DDoS Trends Report - Layer 7 DDoS Attacks a Growing Trend

How Savvy DDoS Attackers Are Using DNSSEC Against Us

Facilitating a Trusted Web Space for Financial Service Professionals

MarkMonitor Partners with CYREN to Deepen Visibility into Global Phishing Attacks

Verisign Named to the Online Trust Alliance's 2016 Honor Roll

Verisign Q1 2016 DDoS Trends: Attack Activity Increases 111 Percent Year Over Year

Is Your TLD Threat Mitigation Strategy up to Scratch?

i2Coalition to Host First Ever Smarter Internet Forum

Encrypting Inbound and Outbound Email Connections with PowerMTA

Resilient Cybersecurity: Dealing with On-Premise, Cloud-Based and Hybrid Security Complexities