Security experts in Poland on Thursday quietly seized domains used to control the “Virut” botnet, a huge army of hacked PCs that is custom-built to be rented out to cybercriminals.
A majority of the largest fake AV affiliate programs that pay hackers to foist junk security software have closed up shop in recent weeks. The wave of closures comes amid heightened scrutiny of the industry from security experts and a host of international law enforcement officials.
Over the past several weeks, many of the Web sites for the top fake AV promotion programs disappeared or complained of difficulty in processing credit card transactions for would-be scwareware victims: Fake AV brands such as Gagarincash, Best AV, Blacksoftware.cc and a Sevantivir.com ceased operating or alerted peddlers who were hired to install these programs that they might not get paid for current and future installations.
New research suggests that the majority of personal computers infected with malicious software may have arrived at that state thanks to a bustling underground market that matches criminal gangs who pay for malware installs with enterprising hackers looking to sell access to compromised PCs.
Pay-per-install (PPI) services are advertised on shadowy underground Web forums. Clients submit their malware—a spambot, fake antivirus software, or password-stealing Trojan—to the PPI service, which in turn charges rates from $7 to $180 per thousand successful installations, depending on the requested geographic location of the desired victims.