Crimeware (as distinct from spyware and adware) is designed to perpetrate identity theft through social engineering or technical stealth in order to access a computer user's online accounts at financial services companies and online retailers for the purpose of taking funds from those accounts or completing unauthorized transactions that enrich the thief controlling the crimeware. Crimeware also often has the intent to export confidential or sensitive information from a network for financial exploitation. Crimeware represents a growing problem in network security as many malicious code threats seek to pilfer confidential information.
Criminals use a variety of techniques to steal confidential data through crimeware, including through the following methods:
- Crimeware can surreptitiously install keystroke loggers to collect sensitive data—login and password information for online bank accounts, for example—and report them back to the thief.
- A crimeware program can also redirect a user's web browser to a counterfeit website controlled by the thief even when the user types the website's proper domain name in the address bar.
- Crimeware threats can steal passwords cached on a user's system.
- Crimeware can wait for the user to log into their account at a financial institution, then drain the account without the user's knowledge.
- Crimeware can enable remote access into applications, allowing criminals to break into networks for malicious purposes.
Crimeware threats can be installed on victims' computers through a number of delivery vectors, including:
- Vulnerabilities in Web applications. The Bankash.G Trojan, for example, exploited an Internet Explorer vulnerability to steal passwords, monitor user input on webmail and online commerce sites.
- Targeted attacks sent via SMTP. These social-engineered threats often arrive disguised as a valid e-mail messages and include specific company information and sender addresses. The malicious e-mails use social engineering to manipulate users to open the attachment and execute the payload.
- Remote exploits that exploit vulnerabilities on servers and clients
Crimeware can have a significant economic impact due to loss of sensitive and proprietary information, not to mention the associated financial losses. One survey estimates that organizations, in 2005, lost in excess of $30 million due to the theft of proprietary information. Additionally, for businesses, the theft of financial or confidential information from corporate networks often places the organizations in violation of government and industry-imposed regulatory requirements that attempt to ensure that financial, personal, and confidential information is not altered or stolen by criminals. These laws and regulations include:
- Sarbanes-Oxley Act
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
- California Senate Bill 1386
- Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard
- "Cyberthieves Silently Copy Your Password" The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/27/technology/27hack.html?ex=1163998800&en=5599d5982c64f082&ei=5070
- Symantec Internet Security Report, Vol. IX, March 2006, p. 71
- "Protecting Corporate Assets from E-mail Crimeware," Avinti, Inc., p.1, http://www.avinti.com/download/market_background/whitepaper_email_crimeware_protection.pdf
- CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey 2005, p.15
- Symantec Internet Security Threat Report
- Computer Security Institute
- Real-Time Hackers Foil Two-Factor Security (Technology Review September 18, 2009)
- Cyber Crooks Target Public & Private Schools (Washington Post September 14, 2009)
- Crimeware gets worse - How to avoid being robbed by your PC (Computerworld September 26, 2009)