Symantec Managed Service Swats Bots

Symantec's service is leveraging data from its Global Intelligence Network to offer protection against botnets.

Symantec has a message for bot herders: Beware. The security vendor is expanding its managed security service to provide protection against bots through its Global Intelligence Network.

By integrating new bot intelligence into its security services, Symantec officials said they can provide additional insight into bot networks and other unauthorized communications with rogue servers. The companys Global Intelligence Network allows Symantec on an around-the-clock basis to find bot activity from its threat data sources, identify malware and correlate blacklist information with what would otherwise seem to be benign activity.

The extra protection, announced Oct. 3, has been available for about two months, said Grant Geyer, vice president of Symantecs Managed Security Services. During September alone, the Cupertino, Calif., company recorded 2,000 bot-related incidents, more than half of which were based solely on the new bot intelligence capabilities. With savvy bot herders taking down command-and-control servers regularly to avoid detection, security specialists have to update the list of known rogue servers dynamically and in real time, Geyer said.

"The list keeps changing, so unless you have an up-to-date list, you may miss when they are communicating with each other," he said.


FireEye has a plan to thwart botnet activity. Click here to read more.

Even though bot herders are increasingly adopting a peer-to-peer model as opposed to a traditional centralized command-and-control approach, Symantecs service can still be useful because the company doesnt rely only on watching communications with rogue servers, Geyer said. It also looks for suspicious behavior.

In a P2P botnet, each node in the network acts as both client and server. While individual nodes can be taken offline, the gaps in the network will be closed without affecting the botnets operation or the attackers control.

According to the most recent Internet Security Threat Report, Symantec detected more than 5 million distinct bot-infected computers from Jan. 1 through June 30—a roughly 7 percent increase over the same period in 2006. Officials at U.K.-based Finjan said botnets are getting smaller as cyber-criminals seek to evade detection.

"[Security vendor] F-Secures assertion is in line with our own trends analysis," said Finjan Chief Technology Officer Yuval Ben-Itzhak. "Our latest quarterly security trends report exposes numerous new attack vectors that raise the number of Trojan infections that create botnets. The focus has now moved on to the crimeware tool kits that generate the infections more easily and with greater force. The resultant botnet swarm potential from such infections is significant."

Ben-Itzhaks comments follow a report from F-Secure that criminal gangs are splitting their botnets into smaller groups to create a multiswarm attack that can still escape detection.

These botnets are then rented out for as little as $100 for a few hours, according to Finjan.

"By escaping detection in this way, criminals can effectively fly their rented botnets in under the security radar and ensure the swarm hits the relevant Web sites with devastating results," Ben-Itzhak said. "The change in the Web security field has proven to be a difficult task to tackle for traditional security companies. The best way to detect modern malicious code is to be able to understand in real time what the code intends to do, before it does."

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