Feeds

Antivirus biz's founder unmasked as noted Chinese hacker

Blackhat once attacked US Department of Defense

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Antivirus startup Anvisoft was founded by an infamous Chinese hacker who allegedly cut his teeth exploiting Microsoft Office security holes to hack US defence contractors, it has emerged.

Investigative journalist Brian Krebs uncovered evidence - largely based on historic domain records for Anvisoft and reports compiled by VeriSign on Chinese hacking activities - to allege that black-hat Tan Dailin established the antivirus startup.

In response to inquiries from The Reg, Anvisoft confirmed via a message from its official Facebook account that the report is accurate. "Yes, it is true," it simply stated.

Dailin, AKA Wicked Rose or sometime Withered Rose, allegedly led a state-sponsored four-man crew called NCPH - Network Crack Program Hacker. According to VeriSign's iDefense, NCPH developed a rootkit [PDF] that was used to infiltrate the US defence establishment in 2006. The group is accused of launching Microsoft Office-based attacks for two years before it disbanded in 2008.

Krebs followed various online clues to piece together his tentative conclusion that Dailin, a 28-year-old graduate of Sichuan University of Science and Engineering in Zigong, registered Anvisoft's domain in 2011, and may still be a key player at the startup.

One of Dailin’s cohorts in NCPH, a hacker nicknamed Rodag, wrote a blog post describing Anvisoft's Smart Defender as a “security aid from abroad” and praised the technology, Krebs noted.

A screenshot of Facebook

Anvisoft confirms reports

Trademark registration records pinpoint Anvisoft's genesis in the Chinese city of Chengdu although the company states it is based in Toronto, Canada.

Kreb's digital detective work, though persuasive, was far from conclusive, which he admits. There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Anvisoft.

"Anvisoft may in fact be a legitimate company, with a legitimate product; and for all I know, it is. But until it starts to answer some basic questions about who’s running the company, this firm is going to have a tough time gaining any kind of credibility or market share," Krebs noted.

Anvisoft's technology has not been widely reviewed, but that's not to say it is ineffective or untrustworthy. Against this Trend Micro, alone among mainstream antivirus software, flags up Anvisoft's Anvi Smart Defender Free setup utility as malign, according to results from VirusTotal.

Western antivirus firms, at least, generally have a policy of not employing former malware writers. Aside for presenting a negative image to potential customers, and sustaining the myth that antivirus firms employ an underground army of virus programmers to ramp up demand for their products, VXers are thought to be ill-suited to life in an antivirus firm.

Not only have they shown themselves to have dubious morals but from a purely practical view the skills required to write a decent antivirus program are not the same as those necessary to construct modern malware.

Almost all Western antivirus firms have a standing ban on employing anyone mixed up in malware for reasons explained in greater length by Sophos here. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
FYI: OS X Yosemite's Spotlight tells Apple EVERYTHING you're looking for
It's on by default – didn't you read the small print?
Russian hackers exploit 'Sandworm' bug 'to spy on NATO, EU PCs'
Fix imminent from Microsoft for Vista, Server 2008, other stuff
Edward who? GCHQ boss dodges Snowden topic during last speech
UK spies would rather 'walk' than do 'mass surveillance'
Microsoft pulls another dodgy patch
Redmond makes a hash of hashing add-on
'LulzSec leader Aush0k' found to be naughty boy not worthy of jail
15 months home detention leaves egg on feds' faces as they grab for more power
China is ALREADY spying on Apple iCloud users, claims watchdog
Attack harvests users' info at iPhone 6 launch
Carders punch holes through Staples
Investigation launched into East Coast stores
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.