McAfee: Virus writers going local

McAfee says that virus writers are increasingly creating localized versions of their malware to target users in specific regions of the globe.

The program is nasty. It deletes pictures and movies from your hard drive and then it teases you: "Even though Mr. Kaneko was found guilty, you are still using Winny. I really hate such people," taunts an animated woman on your screen.

Welcome to the age of localized malware.

Over the past two years virus writers have increasingly targeted their malicious programs to users in different regions of the globe, creating programs that are specially designed to infect users in countries like Japan, Brazil, China or Germany.

Take the taunting Trojan, which goes after users of the Winny file-sharing program. (Winny creator Isamu Kaneko was convicted of abetting copyright violations in late 2006) Winny is file-sharing software that is incredibly popular in Japan, but virtually unknown outside of the region. Still, it's been the target of several malware programs, according to Dave Marcus, security research and communications manager for McAfee Avert Labs. "Japan has some unique factors that we just don't see anywhere else," he said. "There are a couple of malware writers in Japan who don't like people who illegally share content."

Previously, attackers would write programs that would affect the largest possible number of users, but that's no longer necessarily the case, Marcus said. "What we've noticed over the last couple of years is that a growing amount of malware is localized."

McAfee believes that there are a few reasons behind this shift. For one thing, writers no longer want the worldwide attention and law enforcement action that was garnered by outbreaks such as Sasser and Netsky.

And with users becoming more wary, hackers have to be crafty with their attacks -- creating more targeted malware that victims are unlikely to have seen before. Another factor is that criminals are increasingly targeting their attacks to regions that have weak cybercrime enforcement, McAfee believes.

Regional attacks also cater to regional tastes. Online banking is widely used in Brazil, so much of the malware there tries to steal banking usernames and passwords. In China, online gaming is so popular that Chinese World of Warcraft password stealers are now the second-largest class of malware tracked by McAfee, Marcus said.

These regional attacks are part of an explosion of viruses and Trojan programs that is making life more difficult for people companies like McAfee that track and intercept the malware. In 2006, the company identified 53,537 unique pieces of malware according to data set to be published Thursday in Sage, McAfee's semi-annual magazine devoted to security issues.

Last year that number jumped 246 percent to 131,862, and it could double again this year. By the end of 2008, McAfee expects to be identifying about 750 pieces of malware per day.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert McMillan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?