An examination of malware ecosystems

Malware delivery networks are typically hosted across multiple sites and are responsible for launching dynamic attacks on unsuspecting users.

A new Blue Coat report examines the interactions of malware ecosystems, including user behavior, malware hosting sites and delivery networks.

For the first half of 2011, Shnakule was the leading malware delivery network, both by size and effectiveness. On average during that period, this network had 2,000 unique host names per day with a peak of more than 4,300 per day.

It also proved the most adept at luring users in, with an average of more than 21,000 requests and as many as 51,000 requests in a single day.

Shnakule is a broad-based malware delivery network whose malicious activities include drive-by downloads, fake anti-virus and codecs, fake flash and Firefox updates, fake warez, and botnet/command and controls. Interrelated activities include pornography, gambling, pharmaceuticals, link farming, and work-at-home scams.

Not only is Shnakule far reaching as a standalone malware delivery network, it also contains many large component malware delivery networks. Ishabor, Kulerib, Rabricote and Albircpana, which all appear on the top 10 list of largest malware delivery networks, are actually components of Shnakule and extend its malicious activities to gambling-themed malware and suspicious link farming.

In the first half of 2011, search engine poisoning was the most popular malware vector. In nearly 40 percent of all malware incidents, search engines/portals were the entry point into malware delivery networks.

Unsurprisingly, search engines/portals were also the most requested Web content during the same time period. Social networking was the fifth most popular entry point into malware delivery networks and the third most requested content.

While cybercrime typically targets users where they spend the most time, as in the case of search engines and social networking, in the first half of 2011, they also used traditional methods, such as email and pornography. Email was the third most popular category of Web content used to drive users to a malware network although the category only ranked as the 17th most requested category.

After analyzing the dynamic and interrelated nature of Web-based malware ecosystems, the report concludes that:

  • Malware hosting is often found within categories, such as Online Storage and Software Downloads, that companies typically allow in acceptable use policies.
  • Businesses should consistently block Pornography, Placeholders, Phishing, Hacking, Online Games and Illegal/Questionable categories to follow best practices for Web security.
  • Searching for images and pirated media ranks at the top of the list for possible malware delivery, and users engaging in these activities are especially vulnerable.
  • A single defense layer, such as a firewall or anti-virus software, is insufficient to protect against the dynamic nature of malware and the extensive infrastructure of malware delivery networks. Instead, businesses need the real-time protection and intelligence that a cloud-based Web defense can deliver as it quickly expands and adapts to new threats.



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