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Virus writer signs off in cordial Trojan message to MS

So long, and thanks for all the phish

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An unidentified Russian virus writer has reached out to Microsoft with a message buried within a recent variant of the Zlob Trojan. The greeting in the malicious code was friendly and cordial, in sharp contrast to messages posted on compromised websites by defacement crews, which frequently deride the security of Microsoft's software.

Microsoft's researchers are dedicated to making sure the Zlob Trojan causes the minimum of damage, in opposition to the hacker's objective of infecting as many systems as possible with the money-making code. Despite this the message is amiable, even chatty, and respectful after the fashion of an exchange between an old-school blagger and a rozzer.

"Just want to say 'Hello' from Russia. You are really good guys. It was a surprise for me that Microsoft can respond on threats so fast," the VXer writes. "Happy New Year, guys, and good luck!"

The Zlob Trojan, which first appeared in 2005, commonly poses as a video codec that's supposedly needed to watch movie clips. The malware generates bogus pop-up warnings on infected systems, encouraging users to purchase rogue anti-spyware products.

The message goes out to suggest that the hacker is on the brink of abandoning the Zlob Trojan project, in favour of moving over to developing more invasive code. "BTW, we are closing soon. Not because of your work. :-)) So, you will not see some of my great ;) ideas in that family of software. Try to search in exploits/shellcodes and rootkit," the message adds.

Microsoft researcher Tareq Saade welcomed the possible retirement of the Zlob gang. "It warms my heart that they're 'closing soon,'" he writes, adding that burying messages in viral code is hardly an effective way of keeping in touch. "Considering the enormous amount of malware we go through every day, it can be difficult to track follow up samples like this."

Indeed, the latest message was spotted not by Microsoft itself but by a French security researcher.

The same hacker reportedly used viral smoke signals to get in touch with Microsoft in earlier variants of the Zlob Trojan. Comments buried in October variants of the malware were altogether more sinister, stating "I want to see your eyes the man from Windows Defender's team".

In the latest message, the VXer claims that Microsoft offered him work as a consultant, improving Window's Vista security, without knowing about his work churning out malicious code. The hacker said that he declined the supposed opportunity because the type of work on offer didn't interest him, and that he only mentioned the offer because of its delicious irony. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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