Keyloggers Jump 65% As Info Theft Goes Mainstream - InformationWeek

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Keyloggers Jump 65% As Info Theft Goes Mainstream

The number of keyloggers unleashed by hackers soared by 65% this year as E-criminals rush to steal identities and information, according to VeriSign iDefense.

The number of keyloggers unleashed by hackers exploded this year, soaring by 65 percent in 2005 as e-criminals rush to steal identities and information, a security intelligence firm said Tuesday.

"The overall number of keyloggers has just skyrocketed this year," said Ken Dunham, senior engineer with Reston, Va.-based VeriSign iDefense. "It's all part of the last year's, 18 months' change in motive toward crimeware."

Keyloggers are small programs, silently installed by the attacker, typically after an earlier attack that compromised the computer through a vulnerability in the operating system or Internet browser, that record all or selected keystrokes, then sends that data to the hacker.

Hackers are on a pace to deploy a record-setting 6,191 different keyloggers in 2005, a 65 percent boost from the 3,753 keyloggers released in 2004, said iDefense. As recently as 2000, there were a paltry 300.

"There's been an explosion of keylogger code integrated into other [malicious] packages," said Dunham, "especially spyware and phishing e-mails."

Keyloggers are on the upswing for a simple reason: they make money for their handlers. Once activated, a keylogger can track and record personal data such as account numbers or passwords, or silently steal login information to later access corporate networks to hijack confidential information.

"There's a whole economy based on stolen information," said Dunham. "You can make money with just about any angle you want. Don't want to deal with stolen credit cards? Then you can use a keylogger to gain entrance to a business' network and steal licensing codes for software."

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