For years botnet empires have plagued businesses and governments. As noted by director of cyber security solutions of Palo Alto Networks Alex Raistrick during an interview with V3, this is because botnets have the potential to cause lasting damage to their victims and are being used by criminals in a number of ways.
"As one of the most sophisticated types of modern malware, botnets are an immense cyber security concern to governments, enterprises and individuals. Financial botnets, like the Zeus botnet, have been responsible for attacks involving millions of dollars stolen directly from multiple enterprises over very short periods of time," he said.
"The Cutwail botnet (email spam botnet) can send up to 74 billion messages per day, often including malware. They are also [being] used to spread bots to recruit more computers to the botnet."
The Zeus botnet was one of the most dangerous threats facing businesses. Law enforcement across the world mounted a co-ordinated sting operation against Gameover Zeus in May that temporarily knocked its command-and-control (C&C) infrastructure offline, giving victims a window of opportunity to cleanse their systems.
Despite the takedown being listed as a success, the authors of the campaign have already returned to action and begun rebuilding their botnet empire.
The resilience of Zeus has led to a debate in the security community about how to combat and protect against botnet campaigns. According to Raistrick the answer lies mainly in the technology used to combat botnets.
"With so much new and modified malware in the wild and determined attackers attempting to breach organisations every single day, the only effective protection is technology that can combat these attacks without prior knowledge of the malware or attacker itself," he said.
"Next-generation firewall will directly contribute to a stronger overall security platform, starting with the endpoint and detecting attacks there as well as detecting when threats are attempting lateral moves within networks."
RSA chief security architect Rashmi Knowles mirrored Raistrick's argument, but added that the technologies will need to be backed up with information-sharing strategies between companies in order to be truly effective.
"Today's threats are much more sophisticated, diverse and complicated than we've seen in the past. Put simply, we don't always know what signature we are looking for, hence the need to look beyond the perimeter," she said.
"At the moment, we see about 80 percent of that budget being spent on perimeter technology, whereas in order to combat today's attacks and prioritising finding the attack before it hits the organisation, a third of the budget should spent on intelligence-based systems, a third on perimeter technology and a third on monitoring."
According to Knowles increased information-sharing will offer businesses a variety of benefits beyond most existing defence technologies.
"Intelligence-sharing can be compared to a neighbourhood watch scheme, something which has been successful around the world. If a neighbourhood finds that 50 cars a year have been stolen on the same street in one year, it's not enough just to know that information," she said.
"You want to be able to learn how these thieves are stealing the cars so that the neighbourhood can collectively learn how to prevent it from happening again."
Knowles is one of many security professionals to espouse the benefits of information-sharing between firms.
Experts from BAE Systems made a similar claim to V3 earlier in September. The UK government has also made increasing cyber threat information-sharing a central part of its Cyber Security Strategy and launched the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP) in 2013.
Despite the security professionals' and government's efforts, many reports show many firms are still reluctant to share their threat data, as noted by Knowles.
"There are lots of challenges when it comes to intelligence-sharing. Some organisations will argue the data they may have to share is extremely sensitive, while for others it's more of a mindset. "Why should I share my data with possible competitors," he said. "[This] will no doubt continue to be a major challenge."
This news is alarming as, according to the latest statistics from Security firm McAfee cyber crime is costing the global economy £266bn per year. The figure is a stark reminder of the need for change in the near future and showcases the need for businesses to heed the security experts' warnings.
For further advice on cyber security best practice make sure to register for the V3 Security Summit and watch Ziv Cohen, European sales director for IBM Trusteer's video guide about how to protect your business against advanced threats.
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