'Crimeware' Defined

Anti-Phishing Working Group and Department of Homeland Security explain most prevalent forms of online attacks

Okay, time to expand the security lexicon. "Crimeware" refers to the subset of malware which "performs illegal actions unanticipated by a user running the software, which are intended to yield financial benefits to the distributor of the software."

The new term, as well as a taxonomy of the exploits that comprise it, highlight a joint report issued today by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the SRI International Identity Theft Technology Council, and the Anti-Phishing Working Group.

"The Crimeware Landscape: Malware, Phishing, Identity Theft and Beyond" outlines some of the most prevalent trends in phishing and financially-motivated malware, and describes specific types of attacks in detail.

The DHS, SRI, and the APWG developed the report jointly in an effort to educate security professionals and end users on the types of attacks that are currently taking place on the Web.

"Crimeware implementations and deployments are an increasingly serious problem," the report says. "In the month of May, at least 215 unique keyloggers -- just one type of crimeware -- were observed in the wild." This compares with just 79 keyloggers spotted in May of 2005, the researchers say.

The report gives detailed descriptions of many popular attacks including keyloggers, email and IM redirectors, session hijackers, Web Trojans, transaction generators, system reconfiguration attacks, data theft, man-in-the-middle attacks, and rootkits. It does not indicate which attacks are the most prevalent. In most cases, the infection takes place because of an act initiated by the user, the report says.

In addition, the report gives some ideas on the motivations behind crimeware, including spam transmission, denial of service, click fraud, data ransoming, and data harvesting. In each case, the report identifies "chokepoints" where crimeware can be eliminated or neutralized.

One of the chief countermeasures for stopping crimeware is to interfere with its distribution, the researchers say. This can be done "via filtering, automated patching, and countermeasures against content injection attacks."

— Tim Wilson, Site Editor, Dark Reading

  • Anti-Phishing Working Group