Hackers use frequent flyer miles as currency

Kaspersky Lab also says the notorious banking Trojan ZeuS is being introduced into the smartphone market.

Unsatisfied with stealing bank account information from their victims, cybercriminals steal frequent flyer miles, too. The miles are used as currency among some of the miscreants, according to a report released today by the malware fighters at the Kaspersky Lab.

"In one IRC [Internet Relay Chat] message, a cybercriminal was selling access to a Brazilian botnet that sends spam in exchange for 60,000 miles, while, in another message, air miles were offered for stolen credit cards," Kaspersky analyst Vyacheslav Zakorzhevsky wrote in the company's monthly malware statistics report.

"This coincides with our predictions for 2011 in which we stated that cybercriminals would be interested in all kinds of information and ready to steal absolutely everything," he added.

Google Anti-Hacking Move

One of the most remarkable events during July, the report said, was Google's exclusion of more than 11 million URLs from the ".co.cc" domain, which is fourth largest domain in the world. "The reason for such drastic measures was due to the domain’s URLs regularly being used by cybercriminals to spread rogue antivirus programs or conduct drive-by attacks," Kaspersky reported.

The ".cc" domain belongs to the Cocos Islands. The "co.cc" belongs to a company in South Korea.

"The popularity of .co.cc among cybercriminals is explained by the fact that the domain registrar allows third-level domain names to be registered for free or for a very low price," the report noted.

"Our research shows that Google’s offensive has indeed resulted in cybercriminals using the .co.cc domains less frequently; however, they have merely started using the services of other domain zone registrars," it added.

"Therefore," it reasoned, "it is difficult to say how successful Google’s campaign has been. There is also the chance that legitimate, law-abiding domain owners have been inadvertently affected by Google’s actions."

Smartphone Trojan Woes

Another notable development in July cited by the report was the introduction of a version of the notorious banking Trojan ZeuS into the smartphone market. According to the report, nearly three quarters (73.9 per cent) of the infections from the mobile form of ZeuS, which is called ZitMo, are in phones running the Symbian operating system. This is followed by phones running Android (28.26 per cent), Windows CE (23.91 per cent), and Blackberry (4.35 per cent).

Kaspersky explained that ZitMo is designed to steal one-time pass codes, called mTans, sent by a bank to an account user's phones via short-text (SMS) message. "If a user’s computer is infected with ZeuS, and the mobile phone is infected with ZitMo, the cybercriminals gain access to the victim’s bank account and can intercept the one-time transaction password sent by the bank to the user," the report said. "In this case, even authentication using mTAN codes cannot prevent the victim’s money from being stolen from their bank account."

The report also noted that one of the largest leaks of personal data in the history of the Russian-language Internet occurred in July. Some 8000 text messages sent by subscribers of the mobile phone carrier MegaFon surfaced in the cache of the Russian search engine Yandex and were in the public domain for several hours, Kaspersky reported.

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John P. Mello Jr.

PC World (US online)
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