Interview In June 2006, three Russian programmers started testing a collection of PHP scripts and exploit code to automate the compromise of computers that visit malicious websites.
A year later, the MPack kit has become an increasingly popular tool, allowing data thieves and bot masters to take control of victims' systems and steal personal information.
The MPack infection kit has been blamed for hundreds of thousands of compromised computers. And, it's malicious software with a difference: The creators have offered a year of support to those clients from the Internet underground who purchase the software for anywhere from $700 to $1,000.
In late June, SecurityFocus answered an online advertisement for the MPack infection kit, sending an ICQ message to the identifier listed in the ad. A few days later, a person contacted SecurityFocus through ICQ and identified themselves as "DCT," one of the developers of the MPack infection kit. What follows is the result of two weeks of interviews that took place in late June and early July.
(Editor's note: The following interview is an edited version of the two weeks of chats that took place over instant messenger with DCT. The answers have been edited for grammar and spelling, and some answers have been reordered or combined for clarity.)
SecurityFocus: How did MPack start?
DCT: In the beginning, the first version was only for internal testing purposes. That was around June 2006. My friend - Hello to Fuzka - was helping to analyze different exploits and make a pack for them. Around August/September 2006, it became a commercial project.
The project was started for the Russian-speaking "market", but nowadays, more and more guys from other countries get in touch because they are interested in buying the pack. It's all because of the AVers' (antivirus companies') articles about the pack.
How many developers are there? What is the Dream Coders Team?
We are all online friends. Some are real-life friends. We are mainly self-taught.
Altogether, Dream Coders consists of three people on a constant basis and some others that are periodically recruited for a one-time job. (Another person identified as a member of DCT and called $aSH by security firms is not one of the three coders but referred to by DCT as a "marketing director.") Developers are Russian, while helpers and testers are from other countries.
How do you get the exploits for MPack? Do you buy them?
For our pack, there are two main methods of receiving exploits: The first one is guys sending us any material they find in the wild, bought from others or received from others; the second one is analyzing and improving public reports and PoC (proof-of-concept code).
We sometimes pay for exploits. An average price for a 0-day Internet Explorer flaw is $10,000 in case of good exploitation.
Is the project profitable?
The project is not so profitable compared to other activities on the Internet. It's just a business. While it makes income, we will work on it, and while we are interested in it, it will live.
Of course, some of our customers make huge profits. So in some ways, MPack could be looked at as a brand-name establishment project.
What are your goals for the project?
Our main aim is to make the pack work better - boost the number of infections, in other words. Everything else is not so important.
We have got some other projects running and more to be realized.
How widespread is MPack at this point?
I really don't know about the number of [download] servers. I suppose it counts in the tens. But if you are talking about the pages containing the IFrame that refers to the server with the pack, that may be in the tens of thousands. [Some security firms' estimates of hundreds of thousands] sound a bit large but may be true. The clients don't give us any usage statistics.
People have already started offering the MPack software for sale for a lesser amount. Are you worried about that?
Well, anyone can of course try to do that, but will they be successful? The main thing about MPack is not the scripts, but when the support and the methods of exploit are combined together.
Were you behind the development of WebAttacker? Some security firms have postulated a connection.
I know the WebAttacker team. We are friends. I was talking to WebAttacker's manager recently and he told me that they are going to start the real WebAttacker 2 pack in the near future.
Referring to MPack as WebAttacker 2 is a mistake. They are two different projects.
Some security experts refer to you as a Russian cybergang. Are you?
Cybergang is a funny word used by AVers (antivirus companies) and government officials. We are just a group of people working together, but doing some illegal business.
This supposed link with real-life criminals - I think it's bulls**t. AVers want to make an image showing us like bad guys stealing something from a store, etc. But really, almost none of my friends have any contact with criminals about our work or anything else.
Can you tell me anything about yourself?
I prefer to keep it in secret in order to make any official's job identifying me much harder. [However,] I have a legitimate job and am able to combine it with other projects, like MPack.
Are you worried about getting caught?
Yes, a bit. And with all these stories about MPack on the Internet, we will have to shut down the project fairly soon. The AV attention is bad because the more people know about the pack, the more the officials want to catch us.
In Russia, there is a law which forbids [malicious-software] creation tools like MPack, [but] we secure our systems to the best possible extent, so that even a police officer would not be able to get the PCs analyzed.
Do you feel sorry for the people whose machines are infected by an attack?
Well, I feel that we are just a factory producing ammunition.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I would advise you to use the Opera browser with scripts and plug-ins disabled in order not to be caught by the MPack someday.
This article originally appeared in Security Focus.
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