Recently, the cases involving malware infections of singular devices and larger systems have been increasing, demonstrating the importance of computer monitoring software. Hackers are finding new and unique ways to poison laptops, smartphones and networks by the day, and some are now being paid to do so.
In recent months, an increasing number of groups have been discovered who can be hired to hack a system or create a malware campaign. One such group is that of Icefog, an organization of cybercriminals who create malware by the same name.
The hacking faction is comprised of six to 10 members who are proficient in creating advanced, hard to detect malware with the capability to infect both Windows and Mac devices. Malware created by the group allows hackers to utilize a backdoor in a machine and go through systems in real time. Icefog criminals could target specific files and download them. Malware established by the group became known as Icefog for Windows machines, and Macfog for Mac systems.
"The Mac malware is fully functional and has the same features as the Windows malware," said research and analysis expert Costin Raiu.
The cybercriminal organization jeopardized the systems of 500 to 4,000 victims, according to information discovered on command and control servers which sent and received data from targeted devices. This includes 400 unique Macs and 100 Windows PCs.
While most of the attacks were focused in South Korea and Japan, the group could have been hired to steal data from U.S. companies as well.
"It's possible that the ultimate goal of the intrusions was to appropriate data belonging to organizations located in the U.S. and other western countries that do business with the victims," wrote Ars Technica contributor Dan Goodin.
Such Mac-specific malware, like that created by Icefog, can be prevented or removed. Utilizing computer monitoring software or a whitelist block application could restrain such a program from creating a back door into the network. Furthermore, a system like Faronic's Deep Freeze could help Mac users regain control of their devices.
Another hacking-for-hire group grabbing headlines is that of Hidden Lynx, a Chinese-based group first discovered in 2009.
The group has been found to be responsible for a number high-profile attacks on large companies, including the Operation Aurora campaign which affected several companies and government contractors.
Experts think Hidden Lynx contains 50 to 100 members, which are split into two teams who utilize different Trojans, including Backdoor.Moudoor and Trojan.Naid. The cybercriminals have run several malware campaigns at the same time which aim to infect organizations in several business categories. However, experts reported that sophisticated computer monitoring software foiled some infection attempts.
The group is most likely not involved in utilizing stolen data for financial gain. Experts stated that their operation points to the fact that they may be a private organization of experienced hacking professionals who offer their services and skills for monetary compensation.
While many hackers who offer their services for hire are paid to steal information for other underground groups, some are hired for different purposes.
Recent reports stated that the British government is recruiting hackers to form a 'laptop army,' who will be to fight wars from computer screens.
"More and more, modern warfare will be about people sitting in bunkers in front of computer screens, whether remotely piloted aircraft or cyber weapons," said British defense secretary Philip Hammond.
The establishment of such an army could cost the British government up to $909 million. With costs this high, other areas of defense may need to be lessened.
"As our cyber capability builds, we will look at how the military would be likely to use it and where that allows us to reduce other capabilities," Hammond said.