February 17, 2015 By Etay Maor 2 min read


Drugs, guns, stolen identities — the media has recently started talking more about the types of activities and e-commerce taking place on darknets. Sites such as Silk Road, Silk Road 2.0, BMR and bitcoin — the currency of choice on the Tor darknet — have been openly discussed and analyzed. It seems the focus today is around darknets’ hidden services rather than the growing use of darknet as an infrastructure for malware communication.

Malware authors have been using darknets for malware communication for quite some time now. Notable examples include the Mevade Botnet, which communicated over Tor, the Chewbacca point-of-sale malware and i2Ninja, which utilized the I2P darknet. Using a darknet’s infrastructure for malware-to-C&C communication (and vice versa) addresses a major security issue malware authors have: What if malware researchers understand where and how the malware communicates? What if they are able to locate and identify the C&C? With more financial malware variants adopting this method of communication, it’s unsurprising other types of malware are also making their move into the dark.

One trend that seems to be growing is the creation of darknet-based botnets. IBM Security has witnessed a rising number of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that originate in darknets and lash out through Tor exit nodes. It is currently estimated that there are several hundred botnets residing on TOR (not all of which are used for DDoS), and the number is constantly increasing. Another concerning trend is the adoption of darknets by ransomware. The most recent ransomware to use a darknet is Cryptowall 3.0, which is now communicating over I2P. It seems cybercriminals are increasingly relying on darknets for protection. However, not all is safe in these dark areas of the Internet. Another growing trend is that of malware specifically targeting Tor users and Tor-based file sharing.

To learn more about darknet-based malware and the dangers it presents to both victims and operators, please join my IBM InterConnect session, “Major Cyberfraud Innovations of the Last Twelve Months,” which will take place on Feb. 23 in Las Vegas. In this session, we will dive into the most significant cyberfraud innovations of the past year, with a focus on financial malware, cybercriminal gangs and underground discussions and offerings.

More from Malware

Hive0051’s large scale malicious operations enabled by synchronized multi-channel DNS fluxing

12 min read - For the last year and a half, IBM X-Force has actively monitored the evolution of Hive0051’s malware capabilities. This Russian threat actor has accelerated its development efforts to support expanding operations since the onset of the Ukraine conflict. Recent analysis identified three key changes to capabilities: an improved multi-channel approach to DNS fluxing, obfuscated multi-stage scripts, and the use of fileless PowerShell variants of the Gamma malware. As of October 2023, IBM X-Force has also observed a significant increase in…

New Hive0117 phishing campaign imitates conscription summons to deliver DarkWatchman malware

8 min read - IBM X-Force uncovered a new phishing campaign likely conducted by Hive0117 delivering the fileless malware DarkWatchman, directed at individuals associated with major energy, finance, transport, and software security industries based in Russia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Estonia. DarkWatchman malware is capable of keylogging, collecting system information, and deploying secondary payloads. Imitating official correspondence from the Russian government in phishing emails aligns with previous Hive0117 campaigns delivering DarkWatchman malware, and shows a possible significant effort to induce a sense of urgency as…

ITG10 likely targeting South Korean entities of interest to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

7 min read - In late April 2023, IBM Security X-Force uncovered documents that are most likely part of a phishing campaign mimicking credible senders, orchestrated by a group X-Force refers to as ITG10, and aimed at delivering RokRAT malware, similar to what has been observed by others. ITG10's tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) overlap with APT37 and ScarCruft. The initial delivery method is conducted via a LNK file, which drops two Windows shortcut files containing obfuscated PowerShell scripts in charge of downloading a…

Ransomware renaissance 2023: The definitive guide to stay safer

2 min read - Ransomware is experiencing a renaissance in 2023, with some cybersecurity firms reporting over 400 attacks in the month of March alone. And it shouldn’t be a surprise: the 2023 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index found backdoor deployments — malware providing remote access — as the top attacker action in 2022, and aptly predicted 2022’s backdoor failures would become 2023’s ransomware crisis. Compounding the problem is the industrialization of the cybercrime ecosystem, enabling adversaries to complete more attacks, faster. Over the last…

Topic updates

Get email updates and stay ahead of the latest threats to the security landscape, thought leadership and research.
Subscribe today