Australia hosts world’s highest botnet C&C concentration outside US: study

Australian computers host more malware command-and-control (C&C) servers than any other country except the United States, figures from Trend Micro’s latest security-trends analysis have concluded.

The Trend Micro TrendLabs 2Q 2013 Security Roundup, released this week, found that Australian hosts were managing 5.15 per cent of all botnet C&C servers – well behind the 24.05 per cent ascribed to US sources but well ahead of third-place South Korea, with 3.38 per cent of botnet C&C servers.

China (3.02 per cent), Germany (2.87 per cent), Taiwan (2.10 per cent), France (1.88 per cent), the UK (1.72 per cent), Brazil (1.47 per cent) and Canada (1.18 per cent) rounded out the top ten.

Those findings come despite given Australia’s relatively high security awareness and the prevalence of security investment in the country – which, according to recent Gartner figures, is growing its security spend faster than any other country.

The results are corroborated by new figures from Check Point Software Technologies, which runs free customer network surveys and published its own results that found bots in 63 per cent of the more than 1000 organisations whose networks it audited, president Amnon Bar-Lev told the Check Point Experience 2013 conference in Sydney.

“Cyber attack is something that’s not so visible,” he said. “There might be people sitting in this room who are being attacked right now and won’t know it for years. Most organisations have a security situation but are not aware of it.”

This, despite Check Point figures suggesting 75 per cent of the organisations had visited malicious Web sites and 54 per cent of organisations had at least one data-loss incident.

The figures were culled from over 120,000 hours’ worth of monitoring of customer networks, and are based on “real data we’ve collected with company names behind it”, Bar-Lev said.

Trend Micro figures said the number of connections to botnets exploded, from 2.7m per month in April to 11.9m in May and 10.4m in June. Similarly, April saw 1434 botnet C&C servers detected while May saw 4003 servers. June saw the detection of 2102 C&C servers.

“The reason why we see so many bots, it’s important to understand, is because this industry has become quite mature,” Check Point's Bar-Lev said, noting the increasing prevalence of cheaper or free botnet tools.

“Today if you want to run a botnet you’re not going to build a botnet; you go out and rent a botnet, and pay by the hour or day. Sophisticated malicious tools are now being sold via inexpensive, free or bundled pricing schemes, such as two-for-one packages.”

Australia has been actively working to reduce the incidence of botnets on domestically hosted systems, with the ISP-industry iCode initiative identified as a model nearly two years ago by US authorities keen to reduce their own C&C problems. The US Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) passed a similar code in March 2012, while the Australian Communications and Media Authority tracks malware infections on an ongoing basis through its Australian Internet Security Initiative (AISI).

Despite figures suggesting Australia was particularly vulnerable to phishing attempts that infected them with banking malware, the country did not appear on Trend Micro’s list of countries with highest connections to botnets; that honour went to the likes of Malaysia, the US, France, Germany, and Canada.

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Tags malwaretrend micro

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