Back in September, I summed up some of the malicious code and phishing trends from the latest edition of the Symantec Internet Security Threat Report. To sum up that summary, I said that we’re seeing a trend toward profit-driven attacks. Malicious code is being created with financial motivation and is used in conjunction with phishing attacks. Well, after two days of presentations at the Virus Bulletin 2006 conference, it seems that others agree with this conclusion.
From the keynote address by Mikko Hypponen of F-Secure, through to the presentation on phishing Trojan creation kits by Dmitri Alperovitch of Secure Computing, there has been a definite emphasis on the rise of financially motivated attacks. The sophistication of some of these attacks shows that more organized groups of criminals are becoming involved. According to Dmitri, prices for phishing Trojan creation kits range anywhere from $100 to $5,500. At those prices, the people buying and selling this software aren’t just doing it as a hobby.
And, what are the attackers doing with the money and credit card numbers they steal? In many cases, they launder the money through a third party—also referred to as a “mule”—as discussed by Guillaume Lovet of Fortinet. The criminals place job ads, saying they will hire people to work from home at a decent hourly wage. In some cases, they may even go so far as to set up a “front” company (complete with a Web site) to make it seem even more legitimate. The person’s “job” is simply to set up a bank account in their name in order to receive stolen funds. All they have to do is transfer the funds through a wire transfer, or some other means, to the criminal. In return, they usually keep a percentage of the money that’s transferred. This way, if the authorities trace the stolen funds, they’ll lead to the mule instead of the criminal.
So, what does all this mean? Just like people are taught to be street-safe (you know, not walking down a dark alley at night with that wad of $100 bills hanging out of your back pocket) we also need to be safe online. Install security software and keep it updated, as well as installing security patches regularly. But, also exercise some common sense. Don’t open every email attachment that hits your Inbox, or download and run every fun program someone sends you a link for in your instant messenger. And, if you already know how to protect yourself, help out a friend or family member who doesn’t.