Hosted in China: Malware-Infested Web Sites - Why Hackers Spread Malware
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Why do hackers spread malware in the first place? At one time they did it just for bragging rights, but nowadays there's more of a concern for the money. Many types of malware try to turn an infected PC into a "bot" or a "zombie" -- a machine that is controlled remotely by a malicious hacker for usually nefarious purposes. The hacker, also known as a "bot herder" because he may have hundreds or even thousands of these zombie PCs under his control, may use his bots for launching spam campaigns or distributed denial of service attacks (such as the one launched earlier this year against Estonian targets).
Sometimes a spammer will actually hire a bot herder to launch a spam campaign. In that case, the bot herder isn't getting paid directly from the spam; he doesn't care what kind of spam is being sent. He is simply providing a service.
Hackers will also steal information with their malware. By this I don't necessarily mean corporate secrets, though if they stumble across such items and know how to turn a profit on them, it's unlikely that such a criminal would hesitate. Genes notes that in a corporate environment, this kind of malware could threaten the company. "[G]uess what happens when the attacker sees a lot of documents or a lot of stuff that's confidential? He will try to sell it," Genes explains.
I'm talking more about malware that installs a keylogger or other piece of software that spies on the PC's users. Such forms of spyware can steal user names and passwords for financial services sites, among others. A hacker armed with this kind of information can commit identity theft: empty a victim's bank account, run up huge bills on credit cards, even open accounts without the victim's knowledge.
The change in focus from simply wreaking havoc to getting a financial "return on investment" is only practical. "Nowadays, the bad guys try to make money out of it," Genes said pointedly. "To make money they have to control something as long as possible. And they have to update it because the bot, after a certain amount of activity, gets outdated in about a week."
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