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By Kelly Jackson Higgins
Feb 08, 2011
A researcher is looking at mapping trends in Domain Name System (DNS)
queries to better pinpoint stealthy botnet activity and ultimately the
botnet's command and control (C&C) infrastructure.
Zhi-Li Zhang, a professor at the University of Minnesota, is looking at
new methods for detecting botnets that try to hide behind alternating
domain names in what's called DNS domain-fluxing -- also known as domain
generation algorithm (DGA). In domain-fluxing, the bot queries a series
of domain names, but the domain owner registers just one. The Conficker,
Kraken, and Torpig botnets all use this method of evasion.
To get to the C&C for these types of botnets, researchers typically have
to reverse-engineer the bot malware and then figure out the domains that
are generated regularly in order to register them as a way to infiltrate
the botnet. But that process is time-consuming and resource-intensive,
Zhang recently came up with a way to graph failed DNS queries in order
to root out these types of botnets. "The basic idea of our approach is
to observe and analyze DNS failures to identify and pinpoint domain-flux
botnets, which tend to generate a large amount of failed DNS queries,"
Zhang says. He and his research team basically map all of the failed DNS
queries and then extract the most dominant subgraphs, he says.
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