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Botnet Detection and Dynamic DNS

The Internet is a vast and unforgiving wilderness; every day, some new monstrous beast rears its ugly head and threatens the hapless denizens of networks everywhere. The only thing standing between those Internet citizens and complete ownage is the security industry. This means that we have to adapt to the newest and biggest threats on the Internet. Recently, the industry has shown its vulnerability to a particularly nasty threat: botnets. This malware is dangerous because it is difficult to detect before some workstations start broadcasting administrator passwords, online credentials, or even credit card and social security numbers. What’s more, botnets can adapt to hide from common detection techniques and antivirus configurations. Prevention is, of course, the best answer, but it can’t be the only line of defense. Pfizer lost some serious credibility when its networks started uncontrollably spamming people with offers for Viagra (a product they make), and as recently as September it was revealed that over half of Fortune 100 companies had networks infected with a botnet called Mariposa. The problem isn’t a simple one.

More recent approaches to botnet detection have come in the form of network-based detection. Many botnets rely on dynamic DNS solutions to obfuscate data collection centers, and David Dagon wrote an interesting presentation on DNS-based detection of forming botnets. These dynamic DNS solutions tend to be abused by botnet owners, allowing them to hijack hundreds of third-level domains from dynamic DNS servers for use in controlling botnets or aggregating data. Fortunately, this means that the botnet will require a lot of DNS traffic during formation, and this footprint allows for easily isolation of the infected hosts, before they transform into a rampaging swarm of zerglings and spew your data all across the Internet. It won’t save anyone from an already formed botnet, and it won’t prevent a distributed denial of service attack that originates externally, but it’s another layer of protection for internal data.

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