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3/31/2009
12:06 PM
Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
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Will They Ever Catch Conficker's Authors?

While the world is holding its breath, wondering whether the Conficker worm is going to do anything dramatic on April 1st (I'm placing money that no computers are reported to have melted by the end of the day, and the Internet won't have turned to blancmange), perhaps a more important question is: Are we ever going to catch the pond life who wrote it?

While the world is holding its breath, wondering whether the Conficker worm is going to do anything dramatic on April 1st (I'm placing money that no computers are reported to have melted by the end of the day, and the Internet won't have turned to blancmange), perhaps a more important question is: Are we ever going to catch the pond life who wrote it?Five months ago, Microsoft placed a $250,000 bounty on the head of Conficker's author, offering the reward to anyone who provided information that might help catch the person responsible.

But all signs show that no one has even been tempted to take a nibble at the bait.

Maybe the problem is that the reward simply isn't big enough. After all, the papers are always full of tales of the millions that cybercriminals can make these days from a warehouse full of fake Rolex watches, a botnet, and a quick spam run.

A bounty for a virus-writer has worked only once as far as I remember: In May 2004 Microsoft paid $250,000 to a group of informants who identified German teenager Sven Jaschan as the author of the Netsky and Sasser worms. (Hey, Microsoft! What happened to inflation? You're still offering the same reward as five years ago?)

But Jaschan was an old-school virus writer doing it for kicks rather than financial reward, and so he didn't have a a gang of cyberhoodlums being paid handsomely to keep schtum about his activities.

Today's hackers are organized, financially motivated, and likely to take unpleasant revenge if they believe someone has informed the authorities.

There's nothing wrong in offering a quarter of a million dollars for Conficker's author -- but it feels increasingly like it's not going to get us the result we all want: Conficker's author behind bars.

Graham Cluley is senior technology consultant at Sophos, and has been working in the computer security field since the early 1990s. When he's not updating his other blog on the Sophos website you can find him on Twitter at @gcluley. Special to Dark Reading.

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