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Vulnerabilities / Threats

5/11/2011
10:03 PM
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Java Bot Software Could Signal New Vector For Malware Authors

Flexible programming language offers some advantages for cybercriminals, researchers say.

Pity today's cybercriminal. Sure, attackers can get by focusing on Windows -- but with the increasing market share of Mac OS X and the proliferation of smartphones, one operating system platform just doesn't seem like enough anymore.

Little wonder, then, that one enterprising group has started selling bot software based on the write-once-read-anywhere Java programming platform. Last week, McAfee published details of the software, dubbed Incognito, which the company's customers have encountered in the wild. The bot software is fairly standard fare, but the majority of its components are written in Java.

The move is likely a reaction to the increase in smartphones, such as Apple's iPhone and those running numerous versions of Google's Android operating system. Combined with Apple's expanding share of the personal computer market -- accounting for approximately one of every six computers in many nations -- this new trend makes a Windows-only approach less appealing for profiteers and criminals.

"It is a tablet world right now; it is a mobile world right now," says David Marcus, director of security research and communications for McAfee. "And that's where the bad guys are going to go because that is where the good guys are going. So this is about portable code."

Java is most famous for its goal of "write once, run anywhere." With an expanding number of important platforms, malware developers could be delving into the possibilities of Java-based programs, Marcus says.

Incognito does not forge much new ground in terms of functionality. The bot software uses available Java libraries to allow an attacker to view an infected machine screen via screen capture and control the mouse and keyboard. In addition, the bot software can play video and MP3 files, as well as capture images from a compromised system's webcam.



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