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The adage about no honour among thieves also applies to hackers, it would seem. Pirates are flogging knocked-off copies of the MPack hacker toolkit at a discount of up to 85 per cent, according to anti-virus experts at net security firm Symantec.

MPack is a web browser exploit toolkit, sold online by its original authors to hackers at prices ranging from $500 to $1,000. The application is offered with modular extras, maintenance updates and what amounts to support contracts that in many ways rival or surpass those offered by legitimate software suppliers.

Thousands of websites (mainly in Italy) were recently compromised using the MPack malware kit in order to add iframe tags that pointed surfers towards hacker-controlled websites.

The toolkit is written in a script language, sand considering a lucrative business model has evolved around the package it comes as no great surprise that it has become the target of piracy. The package is "easy to redistribute and modify," notes Symantec anti-virus researcher Eric Chien.

Ripped off copies of the toolkit are being sold online for as low as $150, an 85 per cent discount. It's likely that hackers didn't even need to buy the package in order to start-up their illicit business, according to Chien, who reckons its more likely they downloaded the whole kit for free from one of several websites hosting the malware kit.

"With the toolkit available to almost anyone for a mere $150, its usage is likely to grow. In addition, without a single author controlling the distribution of the toolkit, we also expect to see forks of the source code with additional exploits, bug fixes, and other feature enhancements," he writes. ®

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