Security experts often warn computer users about “keystroke-logging” malware, digital intruders capable of recording your every keystroke. But the truth is, real bad guys don’t care about your everyday chit-chat: They’re after the financial information. I was reminded of this reality by a feature built into a recent version of the infamous ZeuS trojan that makes it even easier for the crooks to ignore everything except for the goods they’re seeking.
Pictured here is part of an administration panel for a botnet of PCs infected with the ZeuS trojan (version 126.96.36.199). ZeuS’ data-stealing components are legion, but one of its most useful features is what’s known as a “form grabber,” which will automatically steal any data the victim submits to a Web site inside of a form, such as an address, credit card number or password. It doesn’t matter if the Web site the victim is on uses encryption (https://), ZeuS extracts and stores user-submitted data before it can be encrypted and sent by the browser.
But even when a botmaster has configured his bots to only record data when the victim browses to https:// sites, the amount of data harvested from the entire botnet can easily exceed hundreds of megabytes per day, because many botnets are lifting this data from thousands of infected systems simultaneously.
So what if you only want only the cream of the crop? The ZeuS control panel I encountered has a handy feature, called “Enable No-Shit reports,” which when checked only stores very specific information sought by the criminals, such as 16-digit credit card numbers, and data that victims are submitting to pre-selected online banking sites.