Botnet evolution has reached its next tipping point, as political and activist interests become the principal driving force behind denial-of-service (DoS), espionage and other attacks, according to a new report released today by Prolexic.
The network protection company said that it is seeing around 50 DoS attacks launched against its customers every day, and that zero-day attacks have increased in number and sophistication, indicating that they may be state sponsored.
"There are [hacking] groups developing new methods. It seems to be the result of real R&D dollars being spent. These are structured programmes which probably have state funding," said Prolexic chief technology officer Paul Sop.
"Three countries stand out in their proactive hacking and attacking capabilities: the US, Israel and China. Others are not funded to the same level. "
Present activity is mainly confined to "posturing" as the various parties engage in skirmishes to test their attack capabilities, but these are likely to give way to more serious attacks in the future, Sop explained.
Moreover, political entities are extremely careful to ensure that any links between themselves and the cyber criminals are undetectable, he added.
Non-politically motivated, activist-related botnet activity is also increasing, according to Prolexic. Two attacks against perfume companies last summer are typical of this new breed of cyber attack, in that they were carried out for ideological reasons rather than being led by organised crime for financial gain or industrial sabotage.
Prolexic is currently tracking about 4,300 command and control servers which manipulate millions of botnet-controlled computers, and warned that the attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated and targeted in nature.
Phil Muncaster is news editor at V3.co.uk, a role he has fulfilled since January 2010. Previously he was chief reporter for IT Week, having also worked as a reporter and senior reporter on the publication from 2005.
Before IT Week, Phil worked as a researcher for the Rough Guide. Prior to his work in journalism, Phil spent three years teaching English in Japan.