Uncover C&C traffic to nip malware

In a recent webinar, we demonstrated techniques by which EventTracker monitors DNS logs to uncover attempts by malware to communicate with Command and Control (C&C) servers. Modern malware uses DNS to resolve algorithm generated domain names to find and communicate with C&C servers. These algorithms have improved by leaps and bounds since they were first see in Conficker.C. Early attempts were based on a fixed seed and so once the malware was caught, it could be decompiled to predict the domain names it would generate. The next improvement was to use the current time as a seed. Here again, once the malware is reverse engineered it’s possible to predict the domain names it will generate. Nowadays, the algorithms may use things like the current trending twitter topic as a seed to make prediction harder.

But hold on a second, you say – we don’t allow free access, we have installed a proxy with configuration and it will stop these attempts. Possibly. However, a study conducted between Sep 2015-Jan 2016 showed that less than 34% of outbound connection attempts to C&C infrastructure were blocked by firewalls or proxy servers. Said differently, more than 60% of the time an infected device successfully called out to a criminal operator.

Prevention technologies look for known threats. They examine inbound files and look for malware signatures. It’s more or less a one-time chance to stop the attacker from getting inside the network. Attackers have learned that time is their friend. Evasive malware attacks develop over time, allowing them to bypass prevention altogether. When no one is watching, the attack unfolds. Ultimately, an infected device will ‘phone home’ to a C&C server to receive instructions from the attacker.

DNS logs are a rich source of intelligence and bear close monitoring.