UNC Research: Malware Now a Sophisticated Industry

A study by a criminal justice professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has found that selling malware has become a sophisticated business supported by advertising, marketing, and support services.

UNCC Assistant Professor Thomas Holt said the study was based on research on 30 different hacker forums around the world but focused on six forums, including ones hosted in eastern Europe.

Holt's study, called "The Market for Malware," was done in
conjunction with the UNCC Department of Software and Information Systems, which operated a "honeynet" that helped the researchers identify and join the forums.

"The idea was to go into the forums and find out how they work," said Holt, who spoke at the recent DefCon 2007 conference. His remarks were reported by "Dark Reading," a website affiliated with the Tech Web group.

The typical hackers' forum operates like combination of eBay and an online department store, Holt said. They often specialize in areas of interest--such as programming, scripting, Mac, or Linux.  Most have buying areas where shoppers can purchase tools, bots, or credit card data collectors.

A typical transaction in a hacker forum can sell from less than $100 to more than $3,000, according to Holt's research.

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About the Author

Paul McCloskey is contributing editor of Syllabus.

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