Prospects of financial gain is driving malware writers to team up and work like professional software development groups, using open source methods to develop and share code, and collaborating to test and continually refine their adware and spyware programs.
This is one of the views coming from security researchers and analysts with software vendor McAfee Inc, who insist that hackers are now sharing their skills and malware code in the hope that they can make more money from consumers and other unsuspecting internet users.
The rise of botnets is another factor driving the sharing of malware, the company reports in the first of what will become a bi-annual McAfee Global Threat Report.
Prevalence of automated scripts or Internet Relay Chat (IRC) bots is a substantial component of the malware growth, in that they can crawl the internet until they find a vulnerable computer. There it can gain rootlevel privileges and use that infected drone to launch Denial of Service (DoS) or spam attacks, or to collect confidential information.
Greg Day, security analyst at McAfee said that there are clear signs that threats are no longer coming from malware hobbyists. It’s become clear to us that different people are working at designing and refining malware programs. There is evidence of version controls being established to improve the effectiveness of an attack.
Adware and spyware family counts are on the up, and the number of unique malware submissions made to McAfee’s Avert string of security laboratories has gone from 100,000 in 204 to 200,000 in 2006.
In the first Threat Report launched yesterday, Igor Muttik a senior research architect at McAfee Avert Labs makes a case that there is money being made from malware.
Criminals are able to launch a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on a Web site for extortion, the can generate revenue through adware installations or pay per-click schemes, or by installing data stealing Trojans that lift credit card data, banking login details, or PayPal data.
Virus authors and middlemen can then administer payment through anonymous accounts or by using Western Union money transfers.