Storm botnet drops strippers, switches to New Year's

Cybercrooks repack code 'every few minutes,' hide behind fast-flux DNS

Just a day after unleashing spam featuring Christmas strippers, the Storm botnet has switched gears and began duping users into infecting their own PCs by bombarding them with messages touting the new year, said security researchers.

According to U.K.-based Prevx and Symantec, the botnet of Storm Trojan-compromised computers started sending spam with subject headings such as "Happy 2008!" and "Happy New Year!" late on Christmas Day. The messages try to persuade recipients to steer for the Uhavepostcard.com Web site to download and install a file tagged "happy2008.exe," said researchers at both firms.

However, the file is actually a new variant of the Storm Trojan.

Marco Giuliani of Prevx reported that the company had seen two general variants by early Wednesday. "The first has been online for about 10 hours, and we've seen 166 different repacked versions of it," said Giuliani in a posting to the Prevx company blog. The Storm code has been repacked every few minutes using a polymorphic-like technique since Monday, when the botnet started spreading stripper spam. Frequent repacking is a trick malware authors use to deceive signature-based antivirus software.

The Storm botnet's herders are also using fast-flux DNS (Domain Name System) tactics to keep the Uhavepostcard.com site operational, said Symantec. Fast flux, which the Storm botnet did not originate but has often used, is another antisecurity strategy; it involves rapidly registering and de-registering addresses as part of the address list for either a single DNS server or an entire DNS zone. In both cases, the strategy masks the IP address of the malware site by hiding it behind an ever-changing array of compromised machines acting as proxies.

The notorious Russian Business Network malware hosting network has become infamous for using fast flux to hide the Internet location of its servers, making it difficult for security researchers, Internet service providers or law enforcement officials to track the group's cybercrimes.

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