We all know that terrorists make money via drug trafficking, prostitution and other shady dealings. I now have to wonder if terrorists are using the Internet to make money. There is a lot of money to be had on the Internet and the anonymity that it provides is the perfect shield for terrorists.
I have no doubt that they are making money on the Internet. In fact, I would not be surprised if some of the major spammers have ties to terrorists. Spammers are getting much more sophisticated in their attacks and it definitely seems coordinated by professionals.
Today, our company received a flurry of viruses (the Beagle or Bagle virus) that even infected my home PC. I had the latest virus .DAT files installed, but unfortunately my wife was enticed by the body message which mentioned "animals".) The From: address was also "spoofed" using an email address of someone she knew, so she thought she could trust the source.
This virus was pretty nasty. I couldn't get into msconfig.exe, regedit.exe (Registry), or regedt32.exe to try and manually remove the virus. Damn tricky sons-a-$%#!s disabled them. On top of that it installed an SMTP mailer and randomly selected files to email to that it had installed onto my hard drive. These files attached included:
Adobe Photoshop 9 full.exe
Ahead Nero 7.exe
Kaspersky Antivirus 5.0
Matrix 3 Revolution English Subtitles.exe
Microsoft Office 2003 Crack, Working!.exe
Microsoft Office XP working Crack, Keygen.exe
Microsoft Windows XP, WinXP Crack, working Keygen.exe
Opera 8 New!.exe
Porno pics arhive, xxx.exe
Obviously, the virus wroters tried to pick attachment names that were enticing to open. Fortunately, the virus only accessed my wife's address book since I locked down my files/folders. So none of my friends/family got it only hers. Serves her right for opening an attachment! I've told her a hundred times! ggggr!
I eventually cleaned it up, but it certainly got me thinking about who exactly is making money off of viruses. Viruses are no longer online graffitti - they are used for identity theft, password left, spamming, and more.
One person I know got her PC infected with Bagle/Beagle and was then added to a RBL (Real-Time Email Blacklist). so now many of her friends can't receive her email. On top of that, she was infected from work, so she blacklisted her entire company onto a major RBL!!!
I have a theory that spam writers are writing these viruses to try and get as many people infected as possible so that they get added to Real-Time Black Lists (RBLs). RBLs have become a very popular anti-spam utility that the spammers hate with a passion. If they can get "innocents" on this list then RBLs become less accurate and thus used less by corporations & individuals.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. A terrorist could write a virus that instead of emailing your entire address book after infection, they could click on Web advertisements, or pay-per-click banners that bring them revenue.
Anyone familiar with Google Adwords or Google Adsense knows what I'm talking about. Google has some security measures in place, such as detecting if the same IP address is clicking on many Google ads. But what if the virus infects thousands of PCs - all with unique IP addresses? Then what?
Also, the virus writer would obviously have to "throttle" the clicks as not to raise suspicion, but in theory it's possible to generate revenue with a virus that performs mouse-clicks on infected PCs.
I hate to say this since I always prefer less government regulation/intervention, but the government needs to step up and crack down on spam and viruses sooner rather than later. The consequences of virus writers who are terrorists generating millions of dollars (to fund attacks) from identity theft, ad clicks, and the like is too great.