By Ryan Naraine
December 15, 2006
Underground hackers are hawking zero-day exploits for Microsoft's new
Windows Vista operating system at $50,000 a pop, according to computer
security researchers at Trend Micro.
The Windows Vista exploitwhich has not been independently verifiedwas
just one of many zero-days available for sale at an auction-style
marketplace infiltrated by the Tokyo-based anti-virus vendor.
In an interview with eWEEK, Trend Micro's chief technology officer,
Raimund Genes, said prices for exploits for unpatched code execution
flaws are in the $20,000 to $30,000 range, depending on the popularity
of the software and the reliability of the attack code.
Bots and Trojan downloaders that typically hijack Windows machines for
use in spam-spewing botnets were being sold for about $5,000, Genes
The Trend Micro discovery highlights the true financial value of
software vulnerability information and serves as further confirmation
that a lucrative underground market exists for exploit code targeting
Back in December 2005, researchers at Kaspersky Lab in Moscow found
evidence that the exploit code used in the WMF (Windows Metafile) attack
was being peddled by Russian hacker groups for $4,000.
However, according to Genes, the typical price of a destructive exploit
has increased dramatically, driving an underground market that could
exceed the value of the legitimate security software business.
"I think the malware industry is making more money than the anti-malware
industry," Genes said.
Trend Micro's researchers also found the underground marketplace
saturated with personal data stolen in phishing attacks and virtual
currency hijacked from online gamers.
Genes said the average prices for credit card and bank log-in data can
vary dramatically, depending on the bank's brand and the way the data is
mapped to names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and physical
A custom Trojan capable of stealing online account information can be
bought for between $1,000 and $5,000, while a botnet-building piece of
malware can cost between $5,000 and $20,000, Genes said.
Credit card numbers with valid PINs are sold for $500 each, while
billing data that includes an account number, physical address, Social
Security number, home address and birth date can be found for between
$80 and $300.
The auction marketplace is also selling driver's licenses for $150,
birth certificates for $150, Social Security cards for $100, and credit
card numbers with security code and expiration date for between $7 and
PayPal or eBay account credentials are available for $7, Genes said.
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