US Firms hit with Widespread Cyber Attack, Ongoing

Dennis Faas's picture

A recent security threat has already infected about 74,000 computers owned by 2,500 companies and government organizations around the world. That's not a huge number, but the way in which the new "Kneber" botnet works should have most folks concerned.

The Kneber botnet was discovered in late January by security firm NetWitness. The malicious botnet employs the infamous ZeuS Trojan to swipe login and password data once a system has become compromised.

Botnet 'Most Dangerous' on the Web Today

At this time, the Kneber botnet has yet to be put out of service. Although it was traced to Germany, the bot changed its URL and is now running the same as it was prior to its discovery. That data stolen by Kneber has been turned over to law enforcement agencies and the companies and organizations affected by the attack, but no one yet has been prosecuted. (Source:

This is not your typical free-for-all botnet. Instead, it targets individuals and companies whose personal information can offer financial reward for a hacker, including Social Security data, credit card numbers, and bank account passwords.

Make no mistake: this is one of the most dangerous botnets on the web today. That's according to security company Damballa, which ranked Kneber as being amongst the most lethal threats for user financial information.

Kneber Shows Dynamic Survival Tactics

There's no telling just how long the Kneber botnet can survive before being shut down for good. According to reports, the bot-creator has survived this long because it is constantly changing, upgrading so that it becomes harder to detect. Kneber is thoroughly encrypted and adopts rootkit traits in order to mask itself once planted within an affected machine.

Surprisingly, the biggest threat to Kneber and ZeuS is actually another Trojan called SpyEye, which acts very similarly but masks as a ZeuS uninstaller in order to dupe users into installing it in the first place.

Given its usefulness in harvesting financial information that can be very lucrative for web crooks, the cost of Kneber is also very low -- about $4,000 per copy on the black market, according to reports. (Source:

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