Money from malwareLast night I came across a sobering article from Brian Krebs of KrebsOnSecurity. The article talked about a specific crimeware author that is advertising that he is in the market to buy fresh new browser exploits, but the article had much more information than just that.

The Value of an Exploit Kit

For some background, a crimeware gang has written an exploit kit named Blackhole. Its purpose is to exploit vulnerabilities in web browsers to install a malware payload on victims’ computers. The Blackhole kit itself doesn’t much care what the payload is. Instead, the author of Blackhole will lease his creation to others, and let them supply the malware.

Think about it like a delivery service. If I have a new piece of malware that I want installed on lots of computers around the world, I could pay to have Blackhole deliver it for me. Blackhole doesn’t need to know anything about what it is delivering, its job is only to get it delivered (yes, exactly like Jason Statham in The Transporter).

What is amazing about this is how much it costs to lease Blackhole. A three month license is $700, and a yearly license is $1,500. The creators will even provide hosting for you for $200/week or $500/month.

But that’s not all. The authors of Blackhole have built something even better, a second kit called the Cool Exploit Kit. From the article, it seems like the authors’ newest (and therefore most valuable) exploits are reserved for the Cool Exploit Kit. Only after an exploit becomes known is it moved to Blackhole. Access to the elite Cool Exploit Kit runs $10,000/month!

Additionally, the authors put out a statement that they want to buy more new exploits for browsers and browser plug-ins. They announced that they have set aside an initial budget of $100,000 to buy exploits and vulnerability proof-of-concepts. They stated that they are only interested in purchasing exploits that have not been published and that they will not release this information to the public either. Therefore, the targeted software will remain unpatched indefinitely.

The Motivation Behind Malware

There is only one reason why someone would spend that kind of money to get malware delivered – because it will pay for itself. The article showed that one specific cybergang’s income from just one flavor of ransomware was almost $400,000 a month.

This shows a very dangerous combination of facts. Getting malware onto a victim’s computer is worth a lot of money, so people will pay handsomely for new exploits to make that happen. This makes exploits worth a lot of money, so people will be motivated to continue creating them.

Our Mission

All of this reinforces our motivation here at Light Point Security. The web is now the most common way for malware authors to infect a victim’s computer. Unfortunately, in many cases, such as with the Cool Exploit Kit, cybercriminals use unpublished vulnerabilities in browsers and browser plugins to infect a victim’s computer with malware. By the time the vulnerability is discovered and fixed by the good guys, it is too late. The bad guys have infected tons of computers, and have moved on to the next vulnerability.

We are building Light Point Web to stop not some, not most, but all of these types of exploits – even the ones that have not been made public.