Tag: dga

How non-existent domain names can unveil DGA botnets

Date of publication: 01/10/2015, piotrb


Domain Generation Algorithms are used in botnets to make it harder to block connections to Command & Control servers and to make it difficult to takeover botnet infrastructure. The main objective of these algorithms is to generate a big number of different domain names which usually look random, like

<span class="text">pkjdgjwzcr.pl</span>

. Only some of them are registered by a botmaster, however compromised hosts tend to query all of them until they find a working domain. As a result bots can receive a big number of non-existent domain name responses (in short: NXDomain). In this entry we will show how such behavior can be utilized to detect DGA botnets using examples of different detection methods.
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DGA botnet domains: on false alarms in detection

Date of publication: 17/04/2015, CERT Polska


Domain Generation Algorithms are often used in botnets to create specially crafted domain names which point to C&C servers. The main purpose of this is to make it more difficult to block connections to these servers (for example with domain blacklists) or to protect the C&C channel (and botnet itself) from a takeover. Often domains generated this way are composed of random characters, for example:

<span class="text">gdvf5yt.pl</span>

, which appear as nonsensical, but nevertheless allow the botmaster to manage their bots. While working on detection of algorithmically generated domains (we have covered cases of their usage here and here) we have found examples of domains, which are similar in weirdness of appearance to those used in botnets, but are utilized for different – legitimate – purposes. Identification of these domains is useful in elimination of large number of false alarms in DGA botnet detection systems. In this entry we will describe how such domains are used in a non-malicious way and in a future post we will look into cases which can be seen as threats.
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Virut botnet report

Date of publication: 21/02/2013, CERT Polska

At the end of January and the beginning of February 2013 NASK (Research and Academic Computer Network) — the .pl ccTLD Registry — and its security team CERT Polska took over 43 .pl domains used to control the Virut botnet and to spread malicious applications. As a result of this action, all traffic from infected computers to the Command and Control servers were redirected to the sinkhole server controlled by CERT Polska.
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ZeuS – P2P+DGA variant – mapping out and understanding the threat

Date of publication: 04/01/2012, CERT Polska

zeus p2p

n the autumn of 2011 we observed new malware infections, which looked similar to Zeus. Subsequent analysis of the malicious software mechanism start up, the process of hiding and storing of configuration indeed verified that it was ZeuS. However, monitoring of infected machines failed to uncover the characteristic communicatation with a C&C. After closer examination it appeared that the sample was probably a new version based on the source code of ZeuS that was accidentally made public.


In the new version of the Trojan, the authors focus on eliminating the weakest link – a centralized system of information distribution.
Previous versions of Zeus were based on one (or few) predefined addresses which were used for botnet management. This allowed for relatively easy tracking and blocking of servers, thus rendering the botnet useless. However, the analysed variant of the Trojan used two new channels of communication to receive orders (figure on right):

  1. Komunikacja w sieci peer-to-peer
  2. Mechanizm Generowania Domen

This variant has been analyzed to some extent by other researchers before – there is information on the web on the new variant of Zeus (eg abuse.ch ), however – based on our knowledge – previous research has focused on registering and monitoring traffic to Zeus domains. In our work we focus on understanding the P2P network communication mechanisms, mapping out the network, and monitoring the exchange of information in this particular network.

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