Over the last year, malware creation and distribution has been increasingly taken over by gangs of organized cyber criminals, undertaking highly targeted attacks for financial gain, new research has revealed.
According to PandaLabs' 2005 Annual Malware Report, the time in which malware creators were seeking notoriety and recognition for their creations has long since gone.
"Cyber-crooks, motivated by profit, have adapted well to the new environment - they are now looking to silent infections that allow them to operate without much noise being made in the media," explained Luis Corrons, director of PandaLabs. "This means potential victims do not have their guard up and are more susceptible to theft of money and all types of information."
This situation represents a new business model for malware, with an alliance of developers, distributors and companies making use of this infrastructure, the report warns. A clear example of this is the more than 10,000 unique variants of new bots ("robots," or programs that infect computers and await commands from their creator, usually via IRC) detected by PandaLabs in 2005.
"Bots, along with custom designed malware, are the main tools used by these new criminals that enable them to tackle highly complex operations," added Corrons. "These bots infect extensive networks that can be rented out on the black market, to be used for anything from denial of service attacks to silently installing other types of malware."
The report also looks at one of the major IT security stories of 2005: an industrial espionage case in Israel in which a series of companies fell victim to targeted attacks using specially-crafted malware.
The infamous case in Israel is unfortunately no more than the tip of the iceberg, according to Corrons.