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Zeus software behind one-in-ten botnets
Published: 2010-01-05

Build-your-own-botnet kits based on a family of malicious software known as Zeus account for about one out of every ten botnets, according to data collected by security firm Damballa.

The kits, which sell for $400 to $700, allow a would-be criminal with rudimentary technical skills to bake their own custom bot software and have become so popular that a large community of developers have created plugins to further customize the software, said Gunter Ollmann, vice president of research for the Atlanta-based firm. The firm tracks a few thousand botnets, more than 200 of which are based on the Zeus code, Ollman said.

"Zeus has picked up a lot of momentum," he said. "If you are a beginner, then you might have heard about Zeus from the press. And, if you are someone looking for specific features, the plugins allow you to do that."

Zeus, also referred to as Prg and Zbot, has become a popular amongst cybercriminals as a way to steal victims' financial information. Last month, a Zeus-based command-and-control server was found on a server instance hosted by Amazon cloud computing service, EC2. The discovery came a few days after one security firm warned Internet user that spammers where attempting to infect recipients with the Zeus bot.

Zeus is not the most sophisticated program out there, but it is widespread and affordable. Those considerations and the availability of a wide variety of plugins has made the software popular, said Ollmann.

"Zeus is coming to dominate the very low end of the market," he said. "The newbies that are getting into the market want to create their botnets from scratch. There are better kits available, but they cost more money."

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Posted by: Robert Lemos
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