Home / Blogs

Growth in Commercial Sinkholing Operations

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, CTO at NCC Group Domain Services. More blog posts from Gunter Ollmann can also be read here.

Related topics: Cyberattack, Cybercrime, Malware, Security

WEEKLY WRAP — Get CircleID's Weekly Summary Report by Email:

Comments

To post comments, please login or create an account.

Related Blogs

Related News

Topics

Industry Updates – Sponsored Posts

3 Questions to Ask Your DNS Host About DDoS

Afilias Partners With Internet Society to Sponsor Deploy360 ION Conference Series Through 2016

Neustar to Build Multiple Tbps DDoS Mitigation Platform

The Latest Internet Plague: Random Subdomain Attacks

Digging Deep Into DNS Data Discloses Damaging Domains

New gTLDs and Best Practices for Domain Management Policies (Video)

Nominum Announces Future Ready DNS

New from Verisign Labs - Measuring Privacy Disclosures in URL Query Strings

DotConnectAfrica Delegates Attend the Kenya Internet Governance Forum

3 Questions to Ask Your DNS Host about Lowering DDoS Risks

Continuing to Work in the Public Interest

Verisign Named to the OTA's 2014 Online Trust Honor Roll

4 Minutes Vs. 4 Hours: A Responder Explains Emergency DDoS Mitigation

Dyn Acquires Internet Intelligence Company, Renesys

Tips to Address New FFIEC DDoS Requirements

Smokescreening: Data Theft Makes DDoS More Dangerous

dotStrategy Selects Neustar's Registry Threat Mitigation Services for .BUZZ Registry

24 Million Home Routers Expose ISPs to Massive DNS-Based DDoS Attacks

What Does a DDoS Attack Look Like? (Watch First 3 Minutes of an Actual Attack)

Joining Forces to Advance Protection Against Growing Diversity of DDoS Attacks

Sponsored Topics

Afilias

DNS Security

Sponsored by
Afilias
Minds + Machines

Top-Level Domains

Sponsored by
Minds + Machines
dotMobi

Mobile

Sponsored by
dotMobi
Verisign

Security

Sponsored by
Verisign