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Botnet Affecting 2,500 Organizations Discovered

"Kneber Botnet" gathers login credentials to online financial systems, social networking sites and email systems from infested computers.

Analysts at NetWitness (Herndon, VA) announced today that they have discovered a new ZeuS botnet affecting 75,000 systems in 2,500 organizations around the world. The newly-discovered infestation, dubbed the "Kneber botnet" after the username linking the infected systems worldwide, gathers login credentials to online financial systems, social networking sites and email systems from infested computers and reports the information to miscreants who can use it to break into accounts, steal corporate and government information, and replicate personal, online and financial identities.

A NetWitness representative would not share the names of any affected financial institutions this morning. Principal analyst Alex Cox first discovered the Kneber botnet in January during a routine deployment of the NetWitness monitoring solutions. Deeper investigation revealed an extensive compromise of commercial and government systems that included 68,000 corporate login credentials, access to email systems, online banking sites, Facebook, Yahoo, Hotmail and other social networking credentials, 2,000 SSL certificate files, and dossier-level data sets on individuals including complete dumps of entire identities from victim machines.

Discussing the importance of the Kneber botnet, Amit Yoran, CEO of NetWitness and former Director of the National Cyber Security Division, said, "While Operation Aurora shed light on advanced threats from sponsored adversaries, the number of compromised companies and organizations pales in comparison to this single botnet. These large-scale compromises of enterprise networks have reached epidemic levels. Cyber criminal elements, like the Kneber crew, quietly and diligently target and compromise thousands of government and commercial organizations across the globe. Conventional malware protection and signature based intrusion detection systems are by definition inadequate for addressing Kneber or most other advanced threats. Organizations which focus on compliance as the objective of their information security programs and have not kept pace with the rapid advances of the threat environment will not see this Trojan until the damage already has occurred. Systems compromised by this botnet provide the attackers not only user credentials and confidential information, but remote access inside the compromised networks."

"Many security analysts tend to classify ZeuS solely as a Trojan that steals banking information, but that viewpoint is naive," stated Cox in a release. "When we began to detect the correlation among both the methodology used by the Kneber crew to attack victim machines and the wide variety of data sets harvested, it became clear that security teams must rethink their entire perspective on advanced threats such as ZeuS and consider more diverse mission objectives."

Over half the machines infected with Kneber also were infected with Waledac, a peer to peer botnet. The coexistence of ZeuS and Waledac suggests the goals of resilience and survivability and potential deeper cross-crew collaboration in the criminal underground. NetWitness offers a whitepaper about the Kneber botnet that can be downloaded here.

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