(Screen shot of botnets for rent courtesy of the Mind Streams of Information Security Knowledge blog)
While John Schiefer a.k.a. "acid and "acidstorm," is facing 60 years in prison and $1.75 million in fines for operating a botnet, the problem isn't likely to disappear anytime soon.
Schiefer was part of a hacker group known as Defonic, who gained a lot of notoriety for hacking Paris Hilton's cell phone and breaking into Lexis Nexis. Lexis Nexis is an information broker used by a lot of investigative and collection types to find people they are looking for.
Besides Paris, Defonic seemed to have a penchant for celebrity information, a lot of which they gathered by hacking Lexis Nexis, according to Brian Krebbs of the Washington Post.
While I knew this already, I ran into a very interesting blog written by Dancho Danchev that illustrates the problem that botnets have become, worldwide.
In his own words, Dancho describes how botnets can be bought, or rented fairly cheaply by spammers, phishermen and corporate spies, alike:
What about the prices? Differentiated pricing on a per country is an interesting pricing approach, for instance, 1000 infected hosts in Germany are available for $220, and 1000 infected hosts in the U.S go for half the price $110. It doesn't really feel very comfortable knowing someone's bargaining with your bandwidth and clean IP reputation, does it? What's worth discussing is the fact that the service isn't marketed as a DIY DDoS service, but as a simple acccess to a botnet one, where the possibilities for abuse are well known to everyone reading here. Spamming and phishing mailings, hosting and distribution of malware using the rented infrastructure, OSINT through botnets, corporate espionage through botnets, pretty much all the ugly practices you can think of.
The bottom line is that although Mr. Schiefer and some of his friends have been taken down, there are a lot of hackers ready to fill the small void he may have left in the botnet market.
Very INTERESTING read from Dancho on his blog, "Mind Streams of Information Security Knowledge," here.
A lot was written about John Schiefer when he pled guilty. Brian Krebs of the Washington Post deserves a "hat-tip" for giving everyone a lot of insight about Mr. Schiefer's previous dealings.
The post, he wrote about this in his blog, Security Fix can be read, here.
The best way to avoid having your computer becoming a zombie (botnet member) is to avoid clicking on any links in a spam e-mail, or downloading additional software that is presented to you after visiting a questionable website.
Most of the time, social engineering lures (trickery) is used to get a human being to put malicious software on their system.
Of course, trying to make sure your system is bulletproof (protected by reputable security software) is recommended, also.