Software cracking tools open the door to malware

One in six PCs harbour dodgy utilities


Some of the most prevalent "hacking tools" are those which users unwittingly install themselves, according to stats from anti-virus firm Trend Micro.

Trend Micro warns that, for example, key generator programs designed to unlawfully activate Nero CD burning software from a trial mode into a paid mode are often packaged with a range of malware.

Nero cracker packages downloaded using P2P networks or via websites hosting illegal software expose users to risks such as the theft of personal or financial information.

Downloads of WinXP cracking tools and JellyBean, a utility designed to extract Windows operating system and Office registration codes, pose a similar risk, according to Trend.

The Japan-based net security firm defines hacking Tools as "software tools including cracking applications, remote access Trojans, and other programs that are used to control and manipulate unsuspecting PCs".

Threats packaged within these tools typically use rootkit functionality to hide their presence on infected PCs, making them more dangerous than typical viruses. Operating under the radar the tools carry out their covert function, for example key loggers designed to record ecommerce login credentials.

"We estimate that approximately 16 per cent* of PCs worldwide are infected with hacking tools," said Trend Micro senior researcher David Sancho. "In many cases, computers are being infected by users downloading software cracks and visiting illegal software download sites. The objective is often to avoid paying £30 for a piece of software - however, consumers should in fact realise that it could cost them hundreds of pounds in the long-term." ®

Trend's top five hacking tools

  1. CRCK_NERO: Cracker or key gen programs designed to unlawfully activate Nero CD burning software from a trial mode into a paid mode by subverting the registration system.
  2. CRCK_JBEAN: Jbean (aka JellyBean) is designed to extract Windows and Office registration codes from a computer. Useful for a user who has misplaced their original software documentation and code, it also assists hackers in stealing registration codes for resale on the black market.
  3. CRCK_WINXP: These cracker or keygen programs generate a registration code that can be used to register Windows from trial into a paid mode. Warez sites advertising the software often contain malware.
  4. HKTL_HIDEWIN: Used by script kiddies to hide the windows of programs they wish to run on a computer under their control. These programs are often found on botnets.
  5. HKTL_PROCKILL: A hacking tool used by hackers to stop a program from running on a compromised PC.

*Trend's stats are based on scan reports from the 3.7 million PCs that used its HouseCall online scanning service between 1 January and 1 September 2007.


Other stories you might like

  • Stolen university credentials up for sale by Russian crooks, FBI warns
    Forget dark-web souks, thousands of these are already being traded on public bazaars

    Russian crooks are selling network credentials and virtual private network access for a "multitude" of US universities and colleges on criminal marketplaces, according to the FBI.

    According to a warning issued on Thursday, these stolen credentials sell for thousands of dollars on both dark web and public internet forums, and could lead to subsequent cyberattacks against individual employees or the schools themselves.

    "The exposure of usernames and passwords can lead to brute force credential stuffing computer network attacks, whereby attackers attempt logins across various internet sites or exploit them for subsequent cyber attacks as criminal actors take advantage of users recycling the same credentials across multiple accounts, internet sites, and services," the Feds' alert [PDF] said.

    Continue reading
  • Big Tech loves talking up privacy – while trying to kill privacy legislation
    Study claims Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, Microsoft work to derail data rules

    Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft often support privacy in public statements, but behind the scenes they've been working through some common organizations to weaken or kill privacy legislation in US states.

    That's according to a report this week from news non-profit The Markup, which said the corporations hire lobbyists from the same few groups and law firms to defang or drown state privacy bills.

    The report examined 31 states when state legislatures were considering privacy legislation and identified 445 lobbyists and lobbying firms working on behalf of Amazon, Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft, along with industry groups like TechNet and the State Privacy and Security Coalition.

    Continue reading
  • SEC probes Musk for not properly disclosing Twitter stake
    Meanwhile, social network's board rejects resignation of one its directors

    America's financial watchdog is investigating whether Elon Musk adequately disclosed his purchase of Twitter shares last month, just as his bid to take over the social media company hangs in the balance. 

    A letter [PDF] from the SEC addressed to the tech billionaire said he "[did] not appear" to have filed the proper form detailing his 9.2 percent stake in Twitter "required 10 days from the date of acquisition," and asked him to provide more information. Musk's shares made him one of Twitter's largest shareholders. The letter is dated April 4, and was shared this week by the regulator.

    Musk quickly moved to try and buy the whole company outright in a deal initially worth over $44 billion. Musk sold a chunk of his shares in Tesla worth $8.4 billion and bagged another $7.14 billion from investors to help finance the $21 billion he promised to put forward for the deal. The remaining $25.5 billion bill was secured via debt financing by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays, and others. But the takeover is not going smoothly.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022