World's largest spam botnet goes down (for now?)

Brian Krebs reports on the takedown of the command-and-control servers for Rustock, the largest and most successful spam botnet. The botnet's output has fallen from thousands of spams per second to one or two spams per second:

It may yet be too soon to celebrate the takedown of the world's largest spam botnet. For one thing, PCs that were infected with Rustock prior to this action remain infected, only they are now somewhat lost, like sheep without a shepherd. In previous takedowns, such as those executed against the Srizbi botnet, the botmasters have been able to regain control over their herds of infected PCs using a complex algorithm built into the malware that generates a random but unique Web site domain name that the bots would be instructed to check for new instructions and software updates from its authors. Using such a system, the botmaster needs only to register one of these Web site names in order to resume sending updates to and controlling the herd of infected computers.

Stewart said that whoever is responsible for this takedown clearly has done their homework, and that the backup domains hard-coded into Rustock appear to also have been taken offline. But, he said, Rustock also appears to have a mechanism for randomly generating and seeking out new Web site names that could be registered by the botmaster to regain control over the pool of still-infected PCs. Stewart said Rustock-infected machines routinely reach out to a variety of popular Web sites, such as Wikipedia, Mozilla, Slashdot, MSN and others, and that it is possible that Rustock may be configured to use the news headlines or other topical information from these sites as the random seed for generating new command and control domains.

Rustock Botnet Flatlined, Spam Volumes Plummet

(Image: Spam wall, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from 63056612@N00's photostream)