The Russian Business Network, a notorious hacker and malware hosting network, runs a protection racket that extorts as much as US$2,000 a month in fees for "protective Web services" from borderline sites, a researcher alleged.
The RBNExploit blog -- which is authored by one or more anonymous researchers -- spelled out the racket run by the group, which is thought to be headquartered in St. Petersburg, Russia, and has been pegged by security professionals as a major source of malware and cyber criminal activity.
"The business model RBN uses is quite simple and effective," said in a post published on the blog. "Its affiliates and resellers comb various niche market forums and discussion areas for Web masters using or discussing protective web services, i.e. DDoS [Distributed Denial of Service] prevention. Carry out a DDoS attack on the Web site and then provide a third-party sales approach to the Web master to 'encourage' a sign-up for their DDoS prevention services."
The price for "protection:" US$2,000 per month.
The DDoS attacks are, like almost all such mass attacks, conducted by a botnet, an army of previously-compromised computers that can be told to hammer a site one day, spew huge quantities of spam the next. Numerous researchers, for example, have linked the RBN to the Storm botnet, an amorphous collection of PCs that have been infected with the Trojan by the same name. Some security experts have put the blame for a massive series of DDoS attacks against Estonian government sites last year on the RBN.
RBNExploit noted that the domains that have recently shifted to RBN's hosting services included pornography, online pharmaceutical sales sites and what it calls "HYIP," for High Yield Investment Programs, a term that's become synonymous with investment scams, often in the form of traditional Ponzi schemes. "RBN is successful as most of these Web masters are not about to publically complain," noted the blog.
It also posted a link to a HYIP forum where discussions of RBN DDoS extortions appeared several times. "Paid very fast. A very good return from a ddos attack," wrote one users on the scam's message board in early December 2007.
"Very good support work while ddos!" added another. "I am very happy with your fast payments! THx!"
The blog traced the anti-DDoS hosting services to a IP address it had previously fingered as a "core replacement server" for RBN in Russia. It also listed several domains, including the HYIP "Golden Pig" and several drug-selling sites, that have recently moved to the RBN servers handling anti-attack hosting. Among the latter: thecanadianmeds.com and officialmedicines.com. Both those sites are now hosted on RBN servers based in Turkey, said the blog, and have previously been blacklisted by SpamHaus.org, a well-known anti-spam organization.
Phone numbers listed in the domain registration records for those sites were either incomplete, and thus unusable, or rang through to a fax machine.