Malware Now a Group Effort
Robert McMillan, IDG News Service
Hackers are taking a page from the open-source playbook, using the
same techniques that made Linux and Apache successes to improve their
malicious software, according to McAfee.
Hackers Using Open-Source Collaboration Tools
Nowhere is this more apparent than within the growing families of
"bot" software, which allow hackers to remotely control infected
computers. Unlike viruses of the past, bots tend to be written by a
group of authors, who often collaborate by using the same tools and
techniques as open source developers, said Dave Marcus, security
research and communications manager with McAfee's Avert Labs.
"Over the last year and a half, we've noticed how bot development in
particular has latched on to open-source tools and the open-source
development model," he said.
The current generation of bot software has grown to the point where
open-source software development tools make a natural fit. With
hundreds of source files now being managed, developers of the Agobot
family of malware, for example, are using the open-source Concurrent
Versions System (CVS) software to manage their project.
McAfee researchers have described this use of open-source techniques
in a new magazine set to be unveiled Monday. Called Sage, the
publication features a cover story entitled "Paying a price for the
open-source advantage" in its inaugural issue. McAfee plans to publish
Sage every six months, Marcus said.
Full Disclosure Practice Questioned
Marcus said his company is drawing attention to the open-source trend
in order to educate users, and not as an attempt to discredit
open-source alternatives to its own proprietary software products. "We
think [open-source antivirus products] are fine. They've never been
something that was really in the same class as ours, but we've always
been big supporters of open-source antivirus," he said.
However, Marcus did take issue with security researchers who
distribute samples of malicious software, a practice known as full
"We're not taking aim at the open-source movement; we're talking about
the full-disclosure model and how that effectively serves malware
development," he said.
Marcus's opinion was not well-received by one security professional.
Full disclosure serves legitimate researchers and helps users by
making vendors more responsive, said Stefano Zanero, chief technology
officer with Secure Network SRL. "I drive an A-class Mercedes," he
said. "And I feel much safer since [a] car magazine revealed that the
original design of the A-class was flawed," he wrote via instant
"Research works on disclosure, not on secrets," Zanero added.
Copyright 2006 PC World Communications, Inc
NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at
http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/more-news.html . Hundreds of new
articles daily. And, discuss this and other topics in our forum at
For more news and headlines, please go to: