Blue Coat systems has undertaken detailed research into the use of 'malnets' by criminals to help support their various attacks in order to uncover the best ways to take down these systems.
The so-called malnet systems used by criminals are formed of networks that include attack servers, malware-laden websites and other systems used in connection with criminal operations.
Tim Van Der Horst, senior malware researcher with Blue Coat, told V3 that most of the servers in a typical malnet are rented or purchased legitimately by a criminal from a hosting firm which is unaware of the malicious nature of the operation.
"There are friendly providers everywhere," Van Der Horst explained.
"The bad guys want to find hosting providers that are going to look the other way, or a small provider that does not have the resources to police their own domain."
Once procured, the servers are then used to house everything from phishing pages and data dumps to sites laced with malicious code and malware-installing trojan applications.
While malnets such as the "Shnakule" network have grown quite large and diversified, Van Der Horst said that most of the malnets operate as small, customised networks dedicated to specific areas of cybercrime.
Due to the ease with which a criminal can move between servers and hosting providers, taking down and disassembling a malnet can prove extremely difficult.
Van Der Horst said that effectively stopping an operation requires a quick strike on the operators rather than an extended takedown of the individual systems in a network.
"The best approach you have is to take down the whole thing at once," the researcher said.
"If you can find all the infrastructure nodes you could take them down, but you would be better served trying to get the real identity behind the infrastructure so you can take down the people and not just their machines."
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