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Command-and-control servers: The puppet masters that govern malware
This article is part of the June 2014 Vol. 16 / No. 5 issue of Information Security magazine
Command-and-control servers, also called C&C or C2, are used by attackers to maintain communications with compromised systems within a target network. The terms "command" and "control" are often bandied about without a clear understanding, even among some security professionals, of how these communications techniques work to govern malware. Half of the 315 security professionals surveyed about malware at organizations with more than 1,000 employees were "not very familiar" or "not at all familiar" with command-and-control communications techniques, according to Enterprise Strategy Group research. The knowledge gap widened based on their organization's security resources, from 24% of those with advanced security programs to 48% with average resources, and 82% with basic cybersecurity. As the name implies, command-and-control servers issue commands and controls to compromised systems (often Internet-connected computers of home users that then form zombie armies known as botnets). These communications can be as simple as ...
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