The shutters are being pulled down on old school virus writers' group 29A.
29A, hexadecimal for 666, is an underground VXer collective known for creating the first Win 2000 virus, the first 64bit virus, and early examples of mobile malware that infected devices such as PDAs.
The group also published information on how to create viruses through an irregular magazine, seven editions of which were republished on its website. The magazine contained examples of virus source code and tutorials on how to write malware.
The group has been in decline since its heyday at the turn of the century. A steady exodus of members over recent years accelerated early this year as it emerged that GriYo, Vecna, and Z0MBiE left the collective.
This "pretty much sounded the death knell for the group", Symantec notes, as the group itself has recently acknowledged. One of the last remaining members, VirusBuster, has posted what appears to be the group's valedictory.
"I tried to contact ValleZ for some time in order to take a decision together about the future of 29A with no luck therefore I decided to take the decision alone. And my decision is that 29A goes officially retired. I feel this is fair because I am kinda the alpha and the omega of the group. 29A was born in Dark Node, my BBS, and I am the last active member of the group," VirusBuster writes. "29A has left the building!"
As previously reported, other less well known VXer groups are dying the death, a development symptomatic of changes in the malware market. Profit has replaced mischief, intellectual curiosity, or a desire to make a name for yourself as the motive for creating malware.
Traditional virus writers have drifted away from the scene to be replaced by more shadowy coders creating sophisticated Trojans aimed at turning an illicit profit. Enforcement action against virus writers has acted as a further disincentive for hobbyists, at least.
Instead of getting proof of concept malware from the likes of 29A, we're dealing with the Storm Worm Trojan and other sophisticated "professionally developed" botnet clients.
The days of malware that deletes Romanian gypsy music, talks to victims, or creates a game that allows users of infected PCs to throw coconuts at anti-virus expert Graham Cluley have become relics of another era. ®