MPack developer on automated infection kit
'We are just a factory producing ammunition'
Interview In June 2006, three Russian programmers started testing a collection of PHP scripts and exploit code to automate the compromise of computers that visit malicious websites.
A year later, the MPack kit has become an increasingly popular tool, allowing data thieves and bot masters to take control of victims' systems and steal personal information.
The MPack infection kit has been blamed for hundreds of thousands of compromised computers. And, it's malicious software with a difference: The creators have offered a year of support to those clients from the Internet underground who purchase the software for anywhere from $700 to $1,000.
In late June, SecurityFocus answered an online advertisement for the MPack infection kit, sending an ICQ message to the identifier listed in the ad. A few days later, a person contacted SecurityFocus through ICQ and identified themselves as "DCT," one of the developers of the MPack infection kit. What follows is the result of two weeks of interviews that took place in late June and early July.
(Editor's note: The following interview is an edited version of the two weeks of chats that took place over instant messenger with DCT. The answers have been edited for grammar and spelling, and some answers have been reordered or combined for clarity.)
SecurityFocus: How did MPack start?
DCT: In the beginning, the first version was only for internal testing purposes. That was around June 2006. My friend - Hello to Fuzka - was helping to analyze different exploits and make a pack for them. Around August/September 2006, it became a commercial project.
The project was started for the Russian-speaking "market", but nowadays, more and more guys from other countries get in touch because they are interested in buying the pack. It's all because of the AVers' (antivirus companies') articles about the pack.
How many developers are there? What is the Dream Coders Team?
We are all online friends. Some are real-life friends. We are mainly self-taught.
Altogether, Dream Coders consists of three people on a constant basis and some others that are periodically recruited for a one-time job. (Another person identified as a member of DCT and called $aSH by security firms is not one of the three coders but referred to by DCT as a "marketing director.") Developers are Russian, while helpers and testers are from other countries.
How do you get the exploits for MPack? Do you buy them?
For our pack, there are two main methods of receiving exploits: The first one is guys sending us any material they find in the wild, bought from others or received from others; the second one is analyzing and improving public reports and PoC (proof-of-concept code).
We sometimes pay for exploits. An average price for a 0-day Internet Explorer flaw is $10,000 in case of good exploitation.
Is the project profitable?
The project is not so profitable compared to other activities on the Internet. It's just a business. While it makes income, we will work on it, and while we are interested in it, it will live.
Of course, some of our customers make huge profits. So in some ways, MPack could be looked at as a brand-name establishment project.
What are your goals for the project?
Our main aim is to make the pack work better - boost the number of infections, in other words. Everything else is not so important.
We have got some other projects running and more to be realized.
How widespread is MPack at this point?
I really don't know about the number of [download] servers. I suppose it counts in the tens. But if you are talking about the pages containing the IFrame that refers to the server with the pack, that may be in the tens of thousands. [Some security firms' estimates of hundreds of thousands] sound a bit large but may be true. The clients don't give us any usage statistics.
"These scum are, IMNSHO, directly responsible for huge amounts of misery - and in some cases suicides - worldwide."
Suicide due to web attack? Has this been proven?
Attitudes such as those displayed in this comments thread are - as well as hilarious - one of the reasons that the world is the way it is.
Points have already been made about landmines and munitions. And no, landmines and AP rounds, missile guidanmce systems and the like do NOT have legitimate uses, unless you want to do the usual US of A bullyboy thing and say they're for 'defence' - ask afghanistan and Iraq about 'defence agenda' and how it works.
Like two sensible posters say: it's just software, and these guys are just doing a job. They do not produce the demand for these apps, and to compare this with terrorism, 'real world crime', heroin distribution or the sex industry is frankly minbogglingly hilarious.
And for the record, I hate black hats too - so what? Line them up against a wall and shoot them? Isn't that the approach of your average terrorist?
Oh I forgot, taxpayers in western countries are not terrorists nor do they subscribe to or pay for terrorist activities. We're all "legal".
It is their job
I think that it is their job. Just job. This threat makes millions of money for AntiVirus industry, is't it ? specially for USA companies.
I am from Russia. Our government is not interested for cautching them because they do not do much harm to Russia users (You have to know that MPack is used to infect users from rich countries (USA, Europe ...). ) and russian specialists is not on the same level of computer education as computer gurus.
And even they are caught, Russia hardly will give them to other countries, (as Lygovoi ).
and I advertise you also to use Opera.
Re: Why is this stuff legal?
If you use tools to check whether your own systems (or those of a customer who authorised you to test them) are secure, these tools and your use of them is legal. (In the UK and countries with similar laws). If you acquire or use tools to break into someone else's systems without their consent this stuff is not legal. The difference is in the intent - the state of mind of the person using them. Same idea if you are carrying a knife on your way to work as a chef or to carry out a robbery; The courts have to figure out the difference.
It's a very bad idea to make tools which professional penetration testing consultants need to do their job available to criminals but not available legally to those who might otherwise be able to help secure systems against them. The same applies to forensics investigators and legal expert witnesses - who also need to understand the tools used by bad guys in order to do their job in getting the bad guys locked up.
In practice you also can't learn about some aspects of computer security beyond a certain level without using tools with potentially bad effects. You can only do this ethically within a controlled system environment which you set up and can clean up yourself. As an educator in this area I need to be able to do this. If one of my enrolled fee-paying students wants me to supply a computer virus for experimental and learning purposes, they have to first convince me that they are capable of setting up a closed environment in which they can objectively study the virus' behaviour and from which it isn't likely to escape.