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Symantec: Criminals Pool Resources To Beef Up Online Attacks

Phishers, spammers, hackers, and virus writers are bartering and selling services and information in online cooperative networks.

THE HACKER ECONOMY -- Cover photograph by Stan Watts

An in-depth look at cyberthieves' networks

Cover photograph by Stan Watts
The Internet's criminals aren't necessarily getting more technically savvy. But they're creating online communities where they can barter and sell information on malware, botnets, and stolen identities.

This new global network lets hackers, malware writers, phishers, and spammers pool their talents and resources to elevate their attacks on consumers and companies, according to Symantec's latest Internet Security Threat Report. The report, compiled every six months, says the current Internet threat environment is characterized by increased data theft, data leakage, and the creation of targeted, malicious code to steal confidential information for financial gain. But the newfound networking and collaboration are making online criminals more dangerous than ever, Symantec says.

"Today, I don't need to know how to write a virus or worm. I just need to know where to go to lease one or rent one," says Vincent Weafer, senior director at Symantec Security Response. "There's a quality of service around them. If I want to create a botnet for phishing or spam, I can lease one."

As the networks gather momentum, Weafer says, criminals also are getting better at hiding, by using encrypted channels and other means. "This is another example of how the underground is maturing," he says. "They're getting smarter about being visible."