The author of the infamous ZeuS crimeware toolkit may have handed over its development to a former rival in the banking Trojan development business.
"Slavik" has handed over the ZeuS source code to SpyEye developer "Harderman", according to an investigation by security blogger and former Washington Post reporter Brian Krebs - and based on posts on numerous Russian language underground cybercrime forums. Slavik's apparent handover is surprising because SpyEye, a relative newcomer to the world of banking Trojans, was programmed to overwrite ZeuS installations on compromised PCs.
The deal between the two presumed rivals reportedly contains the stipulation that Harderman continues to support the cybercrooks who pay thousands for customised versions of ZeuS. Slavik may have decided to lay low as a result of a recent string of cybercrime prosecutions against ZeuS phishing mules in the US and UK as well as the arrest of five alleged bot herders in the Ukraine. The arrest of crooks suspected of masterminding phishing operations using versions of ZeuS and controlling networks of compromised PCs strikes much closer to home for Slavik.
In addition, Microsoft began adding detection for ZeuS into its Malicious Software Removal Tool earlier this month, claiming early success with the clean-up of an estimated 274,000 PCs. The move follows months of reports of online banking losses linked to the distribution of variants of ZeuS.
Krebs reports that Slavik is no longer reachable for ZeuS-support questions and may have gone off-grid or at least offline. Meanwhile Harderman is reportedly advancing plans to merge the best features of ZeuS and SpyEye together along with the addition of rootlet functionality to create a even more powerful strain of malware. ®