Russian 'Methbot' rakes in millions

Shutterstock image: botnet

A newly detected botnet, controlled by a single group in Russia but operated from data centers in the United States and the Netherlands, is one of the most profitable bot operations ever, according to the company that detected it in the internet infrastructure that supports online advertising.

Methbot,” said anti-ad fraud security firm Whiteops, generates $3 to $5 million in fraudulent revenue per day by targeting and tapping into the premium video advertising ecosystem of U.S. media companies and brand-name advertisers.

The daily totals dwarf those of the massive “Avalanche” platform the FBI and international law enforcement took down in early December. That enforcement action seized 39 web servers, along with almost a million web domains.

According to Whiteops, the recently detected Methbot, so named because of references to “meth” in its code, has harnessed an army of automated web browsers run from fraudulently acquired IP addresses to “watch” up to 300 million video ads per day on faked websites designed to look like those of high-end publishers’ sites. It uses 571,904 dedicated IPs, many falsely registered as U.S.-based internet service providers, as well as up to 1,200 dedicated servers in U.S. and Dutch data centers to run the operation, according to the company.

By comparison, Avalanche generated about $400,000 per day, according to Whiteops’ white paper.

According to the company, Methbot is a revolutionary new class of botnet. It avoids detection in several ways, including using a dedicated infrastructure instead of piggybacking on unsuspecting residential computers and relying on a custom browser engine running the fraudulent IP addresses.

Those forged IP registrations have allowed the operation to elude typical data center detection procedures, according to Whiteops. That is an innovative leap that allows potentially more massive operations, it said.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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