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Business, Government - Written by on Wednesday, April 1, 2009 8:21 - 3 Comments

Steve Guengerich
Skynet (aka Conficker) – the long view

In my last entry, I wrote about the fascinating thesis of the smart people following Conficker’s purpose, which was that it is a play for creating a criminal, shadow cloud computing eco-system.

Well April 1 – which has been widely publicized as an activation date for Conficker – has come and gone in many parts of the world, and the 24-hour news channels are already moving on, given that Judgement Day 2009 appears a lot less dramatic than it was in T2. (BTW, who thinks this type of hysteria is something we are going to have to deal with every decade, like a cyber-version of locust hordes?  Remember Y2K?)

Nonetheless, back to the smart people, the thinking is that a heightened state of vigilance will be required for quite some time (forever?) because the reality of it is, this is ultimately about making money.  And the best way to make money is to take it quietly and hope no one ever notices, so you enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Which fruits, by the way, appear to be pretty attractive, no matter if you are in a third or first world country.  Check out this paragraph from a BBC News article on the subject:

A recent report by security firm Finjan claimed that cybercrime is as lucrative a business as drug trafficking.  Its Cybercrime Intelligence Report found that a single hacker could make as much as $10,800 (£7,300) a day, which the company extrapolated to $3.9m (£2.6m) a year.  Finjan’s chief technology officer Yuval Ben-Itzhak said: “Cybercrime today is a very, very big business and those behind Conficker have spent a lot of money organizing, writing code and securing these machines so they will be looking for a return soon.  “This type of cybercrime activity is here to stay and will grow because there is so much money involved and it’s hard to get caught.

Couple that with Asia exceeding the rest of the world in growth of Internet access (with China blowing past the U.S. in total users last year, and growing) and you can understand this related news about the growth in malicious activity, posted on ZDNet:

Released Tuesday, March 31, the MessageLabs Intelligence Report revealed that 2, 797 new Web sites hosting malicious content including spyware, were blocked by the security vendor in March, a 200 percent jump over the previous month. The rise, which was the highest since October 2008, was largely due to a spike in the number of images containing injected scripts. Such images were also found in e-mail messages during the month, said MessageLabs, now a Symantec company.

So, Skynet lives on, but rather than the drama of save-the-world heroics that conveniently fits in a 2-hour movie format, the “real” Skynets of the future are much more likely to be designed like the biotech going into steroids:  undetectable and highly lucrative.

On a quick related note:  If you want a convenient way to tap into nGenera’s smart people to learn more and share your own thoughts & experiences on security, then make sure to visit the nGenera public community.  Just visit community.ngenera.com to get started.


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Steve Elmore
Apr 1, 2009 9:24

See SRI’s analysis of Conficker here.
This conversation continues at nGenera Members Community
Steve Elmore
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Director, Product Management

Kyle Maxwell
Apr 1, 2009 12:01

The reason Y2K came and went without much disruption isn’t because it was overblown.

It’s because a lot of smart, dedicated people put time and resources into fixing the problems in the several years running up to 2000-01-01.

How much cybersecurity is needed to prevent a cyber-Katrina? « Alex Marshall’s Blog
Apr 11, 2009 14:10

[...] a federal government could shut it down. But then again, with the recent scares over Conficker (see Steve’s Skynet blogs), we may be entering a new age where more internet policing becomes a necessity, with governments [...]

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