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Researchers Uncover Bot Sales Network

Internet portal offers bots designed for a variety of activities at a wide range of prices, PandaLabs says
Researchers at PandaLabs said yesterday they have uncovered a network that sells bots targeting social networks and Webmail systems.

The publicly available site contains an extensive catalog of programs aimed at social networks and Webmail services, including Twitter, Facebook, Hi5, MySpace, MyYearBook, YouTube, Tuenti, Friendster, Gmail, and Yahoo, PandaLabs says.

Each entry explains the reason why the bot has been created and describes activities that the bots can perform, such as creating multiple accounts simultaneously on social networks; identity theft; stealing friends, followers or contacts; and automatic sending of messages.

"All bots work in a conventional manner," the page says. "They gather friend IDs/names and send friend requests, messages, [and] comments automatically."

"We are still investigating, but this is another example of the lucrative business that malware represents for cybercriminals," says Luis Corrons, technical director of PandaLabs. "The catalog of bots for sale describes some of the many activities they can be used for. Some of them are more 'innocent,' such as creating accounts, and others are more insidious and specifically focused on fraud -- including theft of identities, photographs, etc."

Prices on the site range from $95 for the cheapest bot to $225 for the most expensive. The entire catalog can be purchased for $4,500, and the site guarantees the bots will never be detected by any type of security solution -- they can change users, agents, and headers as many times as necessary to avoid being blocked, the Web page claims.

Some of the bots have been designed for unusual activities, including an automatic generator of visits and views for YouTube videos, vote tampering in Digg, and unlimited sending of messages on online dating sites.

The bots are specially adapted for each website, and the list of targets includes not just globally popular social networks or communities, but also regional sites, such as Tuenti and Yahoo UK, PandaLabs says.

"On the same portal, there is also an offer to earn money by reselling these 'products' as an affiliate," Corrons says. "It is these kinds of models that help build cyber-mafias and organizations that operate across several countries.

"We should still not forget, however, that this business exists not just because there are developers creating the threats, but also because there are criminals who are prepared to pay for them," Corrons adds. "Until we are able to prevent people from defrauding victims in this way, this business model will continue to thrive."

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