The security firm Damballa is warning of a large and fast growing botnet created specifically to deliver distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on demand for anyone willing to pay for the service.
The IMDDOS botnet is operated out of China and has been growing at the rate of about 10,000 infected machines every day for the past several months, to become one the largest active botnets currently, Damballa says.
Gunter Ollman, vice president of research at Damballa, said that what makes IMDDOS significant is its openly commercial nature. The botnet's operators have set up a public Web site potential attackers can use to subscribe for the DDoS service, and to launch attacks against targets.
The site offers various subscription plans and attack options, and provides tips on how the service can be used to launch effective DDoS attacks. It even provides customers with contact information for support and customer service.
Anyone with knowledge of Chinese can essentially subscribe to the service and use it to initiate DDoS attacks against targets of their choice, anywhere around the globe and with next to no effort, Ollman said.
Paid subscribers are provided with a unique alias and a secure access application which they download on to their systems. Users wishing to launch an attack use the application to log into a secure area on the Web site where they can list the hosts and servers they want to attack and submit their request.
The command and control-server behind the botent receives the target list and instructs the infected host machines, or botnet agents, to starting launching DDoS attacks against the target site. "Depending on your level of subscription you will be provided a commensurate number of DDoS agents to use," in launching at attack, he said.
A vast majority of the infected machines that are part of the IMDDOS botnet are based on China, however, a significant number of infected machines in the U.S are part of it as well, Ollman said. Law enforcement authorities in the U.S. have been notified of the problem, he added.
The IMDDOS botnet provides another example of what many analysts say is the open and easy availability of sophisticated malware tools and services in China these days.
Increasingly, writers of malicious software are openly hawking their wares on public Websites that are easy to find and are accessible by anyone.
Many of the hacking tools and services sold on such sites are inexpensive, highly customizable and designed to be used by novices. Prices for malware tools often start at just $US20.
As in the case of the IMDDOS botnet, such sites often offer support services, formal product upgrades, end-user license agreements and tools that let customers verify how effective their attacks really are.