How does one disable a botnet? It is difficult to identify and repair individually infected machines. Therefore, targeting the command and control servers can instead break the linkage between the infected machines and the malicious controller.
Manual identification is time-consuming and can lead to collateral damage. Automation is required to enumerate the machines, evaluate the threat, identify the takedown mechanism, and determine the potential collateral damage by the takedown. Using a dataset of DNS registrations over time, the tools were tested across this sample of the Internet over time (from Damballa).
APT (Advance persistent threats) are particularly troublesome as they are machines that persist and change their presence overtime according to the botnet controller. The C&C machines also attempt to go dark by changing their IP resolution to localhost (127.0.0.1), thereby minimizing their observed signature by only having network traffic when an attack is required. This leads to a suite of detection features that can lead to identifying the actual C&C machines, such as having short-lived IP addresses, changing the domain name to NULL or localhost, and varying the IP address across a diverse set of infrastructure and geographic locations.
Then develop a machine learning algorithm, initially with a ground truth of 50k records of APTs. The features are scored and then run through different models using the 90/10 on the ground truth dataset. The following results are only approximate, as I was trying to copy them during the presentation.
|Model||Accuracy||True Positive Rate||False Positive Rate|
|General Linear Regression||98||93||1|
Then apply to the full dataset of 300 million records. These are clustered to 1.1 million clusters, of which ~700 are above 0.8 confidence of being APTs. At 90% confidence, the clusters all contain less than 1000 domain names.
How then do botnets attempt to evade detection? The infected machines generally use DNS to lookup their C&C machines; however, the lookup can be occasionally spurious or to legitimate IPs. The machines could be peer to peer, but this requires active connections that are often blocked or restricted by networks (against "legitimate" uses such as bittorrent).
The suite of tools also operates on the malware running in VMs, whereby it works through possible takedown mechanisms and then observes the response of the infection to takedown thereby identifying other, possibly unused, communication approaches. For most infections, this takes on the order of hours to enumerate through the approaches; however, some can take days.
- Attributing the botnet to physical entities
- Targeting P2P-based botnets