As if phishing scams and identity thefts didn't already make the Internet unappetizing, hackers are apparently getting still more industrious in ways that leave us feeling queasy. According to The New Scientist, we now have to worry about "a burgeoning cyber-crime industry, one which lets people with next to no programming skills steal a fortune in cash or get hold of sensitive government documents." Whoa, nelly! Do you mean to tell us that our freedom-loving Grandpa Joe can simply buy a hacker's kit and infiltrate the IRS mainframe? Perhaps not, but such hacking kits do exist, allowing users to build custom malware that can steal bank account numbers or other vital data.
While these software packages were previously limited to a small number of individuals with programming know-how, kits like Zeus, which can now be bought online for $700 or less, allow people with few computer skills to build their own malicious code. One recent Zeus attack on several government agencies managed to net copies of U.S. airport security plans, defense contracts, and some documents relating to biological and chemical terrorism. All the files ended up on a server in Belarus, but the culprit is still unknown.
Another software pack, called Fragus, utilizes a simple GUI and Web-hosted access for deploying viral "payloads" like Zeus trojans. After the software is bought or rented, it's installed by a more savvy hacker, so that a less-qualified ne'er-do-well can toy around with it before launching a data-grabbing campaign. Meanwhile, sites like Virtest.com allow programmers to upload their viruses, and check them against multiple anti-virus products. If your code gets flagged, you can simply upload it to another dedicated site that will make it unrecognizable.
Online security experts are worried, though, because it's becoming easier and easier to spread, install, and run this kind of software. Previously, it took some dedication and smarts to build malware; now, anyone with some capital and a plan can simply build their own scam or have someone else build it for them. As the process becomes less arduous and less expensive, cyber-crime will only increase. [From: The New Scientist]