By John E. Dunn
10 September 2007
The global market for criminal malware now operates like a supermarket,
complete with special offers and volume discounts, a security company
According to Panda Softwares latest quarterly report, the going rate for
a reasonably sophisticated but generic Trojan is between 175 ($350) and
350 ($700), while the email list with which to target victims for the
program costs from 50 ($100) per million names.
The malware writers even offer specials in one case the company
discovered a site selling a payment capture Trojan for 200 ($400) to the
first 100 customers to sign up, a saving of 50 ($100) off the normal
The company is shy of giving more details of the sites from which such
offers were being made, but was willing to say that it considered Russia
- an area with poor anti-malware legislation as a prime location for the
"In recent months we have witnessed the growing professionalisation of
digital crime," said Panda Softwares lab chief Luis Corrons. "The first
step for cyber-crooks was when they started looking for profits from
their activity instead of just notoriety. Now they are creating a vast
online malware market, where there are even specialised segments. New
business models are appearing, as we speak," he said.
According to Corrons, the malware industry now appears to be turning
from being just a shop from which malware can be bought, to one where
services are offered. For between one and five dollars per executable,
malware could be cloaked - encrypted - against the anti-virus software
programs it was likely to encounter on a for-hire basis. Finally,
criminals could rent spam servers for 250 a time to distribute their
assembled malware package, the company said.
Corrons also provides details of the cost of hiring DDoS attacks in his
blog. This malware market is completely online. All types of creations
and crimeware tools can be bought in hundreds of forums. Even though
most web pages have been located in Eastern European countries, mafias
extend their networks worldwide, he said.
"Although it may look difficult to find web pages where these tools are
sold, it is not. All you have to do is search in browsers for forums
where hacking services are rented or where Trojans are sold."
If using malware to attack users is so lucrative, why do some criminals
choose to sell their expertise rather than exploit the programs
themselves? This is a harder question to answer, but could have
something to do with risk. Better a low-risk, lower return that is
guaranteed than a high-risk, high-return one that is not.
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