Researchers at Trusteer say these credential factory outlets are a way for the bad guys to cash in on other credentials they pilfered while stealing online banking credentials. It's like making money off the chaff that comes along with the ultra-valuable online banking credentials lifted by Trojans and keyloggers: "They harvest a lot of things" unrelated to the stolen online banking credentials, says Yishay Yovel, vice president of marketing for Trusteer, whose company discovered the sales. "This is how they monetize the [leftover] assets they harvest."
The ads were running in underground forums infiltrated by the researchers from Trusteer.
In one of the advertisements in the underground, the thieves are offering bulk and country-specific credentials, as well as other personal information they nabbed, such as emails. They claim to have some 80 gigabytes worth of stolen victim information.
Another ad apparently from a botnet operators sells cPanel credentials and URLs that would allow you to wrest control of the victim websites. cPanel is a control-panel application used for managing hosted websites.
"That was very interesting, with cPanel control software for websites," Yovel says. Getting access to user credentials for that application would provide attackers with another more targeted way to infect websites.
Trusteer believes attackers could then lure users to those sites via phishing emails and social networking messages.
This bold, open-market style sale reflects the maturity of the stolen credentials market, says Chris Wysopal, CTO at Veracode. "I think this is an interesting development. The more or less open-market credential sale shows the market is maturing much like the market for stolen credit cards did in the mid-2000s. This makes it easier for the password thieves to monetize their work," Wysopal says. "It will likely lead to wider damage from having your password stolen by a Trojan."
Wysopal wonders whether some of the stolen credentials overload is related to recent major breaches like that of Zappos and Stratfor, where millions of usernames and passwords were copied. "There are many examples posted for free to Pastebin from these types of attacks. There must be some for sale, too," he says.
Meanwhile, Trusteer says the Facebook and Twitter credentials can be used for social engineering, phishing, and intelligence-gathering. "Facebook tells us so much about a person. There's a link between this data-gathering ... and a potential data breach. You can't dismiss Facebook as a consumer issue and not a [security] problem," he says. It's all interrelated today, he says.
A screen shot of one of the ads, written in broken English, is here.
Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.