From Russia With Malware

An online site in Russia is using an affiliate model to spread malicious code, including back doors, other Trojans, spyware, and adware

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

May 28, 2005

3 Min Read

An online business based in Russia is paying Web sites 6 cents for each machine they infect with adware and spyware, according to security researchers who call the practice "awful." says it pays Webmasters to place a one-line exploit on their sites. The code exploits a number of patched Windows and Internet Explorer vulnerabilities, including some that go back as far as 2002. Systems that haven't been updated would be vulnerable to the exploit. According to analysis done by the SANS Institute's Internet Storm Center, the exploit drops at least nine pieces of malicious code--including back doors, other Trojans, spyware, and adware--on any PC whose user surfs to a site that hosts the exploit code.

IframeDollars says it pays $61 per thousand unique installations, or 6.1 cents per compromised machine, to any site that signs up as an affiliate.

"It's very clever," says Richard Stiennon, the director of threat research at anti-spyware software vendor Webroot Software Inc. "And very brazen. This is new in that they're taking an existing business model--an affiliate-style program--to exploit a [Windows] vulnerability to plant their code."

Stiennon estimates that iframeDollars could collect as much as $75,000 annually from the adware it placed on the infected machines two weeks ago, which cost it about $12,000 in payments.

IframeDollars isn't alone in taking this model and running with it, says Dan Hubbard, head of security at Websense Inc., a Web security and filtering vendor. Other sites, since shut down, have tried a similar approach. "I'm surprised that [iframeDollars] hasn't been shut down, too," Hubbard says.

According to the Internet Storm Center, companies can prevent the downloading of adware and spyware from iframeDollars' servers by blocking the IP address

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