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No one is sure why the Pushdo botnet is running a distributed denial-of-service-like attack against over 300 major web sites including the CIA, Mozilla labs, SANS and Twitter, according to the Shadowserver Foundation. Pushdo is also called Cutwail and Pandex.

The botnet has been spewing initial SSL connection requests, causing servers to return an SSL negotiation error. The attacks don’t appear to be of sufficient intensity to knock any of the target sites off line and possible could be a mechanism to mask the botnet’s other traffic.

SecureWorks said Pushdo is sending the SSL packets to port 443. The botnet also uses that port for command-and-control traffic.

Last June, MessageLabs estimated that the Pushdo botnet, believed to be the world’s largest, was comprised of 1.5 to 2 million bots that pumped out 74 billion spam messages per day (51 million per minute.) They said 14 percent of the bots were in Brazil, 14 percent in South Korea and 10 percent in the U.S.

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