A Wikileaks-style war of attrition between two competing rogue Internet pharmacy gangs has exposed some of the biggest spammers on the planet. The latest casualties? Several individuals likely responsible for running Grum, currently the world’s most active spam botnet.
Microsoft on Monday named a Russian man as allegedly the guy responsible for running the Kelihos botnet, a spam engine that infected an estimated 40,000 PCs. But closely held data seized from the world’s largest spam affiliate program suggests that the driving force behind Kelihos is a different individual who is still coordinating spam campaigns for hire.
Kelihos shares a great deal of code with the infamous Waledac botnet, a far more pervasive threat that infected hundreds of thousands of computers and pumped out tens of billions of junk emails promoting shady online pharmacies. Despite the broad base of shared code between the two malware families, Microsoft classifies them as fundamentally different threats. The company used clever legal techniques to seize control over and shutter both botnets, sucker punching Waledac in early 2010 and taking out Kelihos last fall.
On Monday, Microsoft filed papers with a Virginia court stating that Kelihos was run by Andrey N. Sabelnikov, a St. Petersburg man who once worked at Russian antivirus and security firm Agnitum. But according to the researcher who shared that intelligence with Microsoft — and confidentially with Krebs On Security weeks prior to Microsoft’s announcement — Sabelnikov is likely only a developer of Kelihos. Rather, the researcher argues, the true coordinator of both Kelihos and Waledac is another Russian man who is well known to anti-spam activists.
In a surprise filing made late Monday, Microsoft said a former technical expert at a Russian antivirus firm was the lead person responsible for operating the Kelihos botnet, a global spam machine that Microsoft dismantled in a coordinated takedown last year.
The last post in this series introduced the world to “Google,” an alias chosen by the hacker in charge of Cutwail — currently the world’s largest spam botnet. Google rented his crime machine to members of SpamIt, an organization that paid spammers to promote rogue Internet pharmacy sites. This made Google a top dog, but also a primary target of other botmasters selling software to SpamIt, particularly the hacker known as “SPM,” the guy behind the infamous Srizbi botnet.
Previous stories in my Pharma Wars series have identified top kingpins behind the world’s largest spam botnets. Today’s post includes never-before-published information on “Google,” the secretive hacker in charge of the infamous Cutwail botnet.
Recently leaked online chat records may provide the closest look yet at a Russian man awaiting trial in Wisconsin on charges of running a cybercrime machine once responsible for sending between 30 to 40 percent of the world’s junk email.
Last week, not long after I published the latest installment in my Pharma Wars series, KrebsOnSecurity.com was the target of a sustained distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that caused the site to be unavailable for some readers between Nov. 17 and 18. What follows are some details about that attack, and how it compares to previous intimidation attempts.
The DDoS was caused by incessant, garbage requests from more than 20,000+ PCs around the globe infected with malware that allows criminals to control them remotely for nefarious purposes. If you’ve noticed that a few of the features on this site haven’t worked as usual these past few days, now you know why. Thanks for your patience.
I spoke this week at Govcert 2011, a security conference in Rotterdam. The talk drew heavily on material from my Pharma Wars series, about the alleged proprietors of two competing rogue Internet pharmacies who sought to destroy the others’ reputation… Read More »
Rove Digital, the company run by six men who were arrested in Estonia this week for allegedly infecting four million PCs worldwide with malware, was an early investor in ChronoPay, a major Russian payment processing firm whose principal founder Pavel… Read More »
A Moscow court on Monday denied bail for Pavel Vrublevsky, a Russian businessman who was charged earlier this year with hiring hackers to launch costly online attacks against his rivals. The denial came even after Vrublevsky apparently admitted his role… Read More »