Russian spammers adjust strategy to control PCs

Targeted approach build bot networks

If the level of celebrity spam is any guide, Barack Obama is a shoe-in for the US presidency.

“He’s running well ahead of John McCain,” says Grant Murphy, US director of gateway security at Secure Computing.

Murphy, who was presenting in Wellington recently, says that 10% of all spam now comes through sites about celebrities.

Top of the list is Angelina Jolie, followed by Madonna and Brad Pitt.

One of the more serious threats is posed by what is known as the Russian business federation, which, he says, has become extremely clever at marketing malware.

“They’ve done a lot of research to appeal to specific users. In New Zealand, it might be sites about Kiwi history. Their goal is to command as many PCs as they can.”

The Russians make their money by leasing out down time on captured PCs. You’re asleep and they will lease out your PC for, say, a period of two hours to send spam.

“It’s a leasing business that makes millions of dollars,” Murphy says. “They hold underground auctions to lease out time on captured PCs.”

The Wellington audience was made up largely of representatives from government agencies and the finance sector. Murphy spoke of the changing role of the security manager.

“The audience said they were being overwhelmed by requests from people who wanted to use social networking. They’re getting a mix of business requests that they can’t deny,” Murphy says.

“Social networking is continuously bringing forward the next round of threats. “The concept called trust doesn’t exist on the internet.”

Murphy adds that instant messaging has become a technology that needs to be controlled.

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