Conficker and Waledac botnet owners were partners

Criminal enterprises and botnet authors are mimicking the IT sector by working together and creating new business models such as botnets as a service'.

The Cisco Midyear Security Report said that it was a spin on the SaaS (Software as a Service) trend, which was gaining more popularity in the technology sector.

The criminals' increasing business acumen was highlighted with the way the creators of the Conficker and Waledac botnets collaborated.

In April, the Conficker botnet started to make money by delivering the Waledac malware as well as scareware, which meant that Conficker was serving as a large-scale distributor.

Cisco highlighted the networked nature of the threat, as the two illegal enterprises collaborated to launch from the same hosts over a long period of time, causing greater damage.

Tom Gillis, vice president and general manager of Cisco Security Products, said in the report that criminals were copying the practices of the most successful legitimate businesses to make money and grow.

He said: "It seems the best practices espoused by Fortune magazine and Harvard Business School have found their way into the online underworld."

The report also said that Cisco security experts expected cybercriminals to join up in similar partnerships in the coming months. Indeed, they'd already seen ads online where other criminals could access existing botnets for a fee.

"With criminals being so quick to identify weaknesses both in online networks and in consumers' psyches, businesses need to adopt ever more advanced ways to fight cybercrime and remain vigilant across all attack vectors," said Cisco chief security researcher Patrick Peterson in a statement.

Cisco said that there was cause for optimism in the future. Aggressive good guy' collaborations - such as the Conficker Working Group, which now has over 100 member organisations - were helping to battle the new threats.