Top tip, hacker newbs: Don't use the same Skype ID for IoT bot herding and job ads

Opsec, not just for Christmas


Updated An alleged teenage tearaway with a passion for building botnets was caught using the same Skype ID he used for hacking activities when applying for jobs.

Researchers at NewSky Security claim they spotted the 13-year-old's Skype name on job ad message boards and a website called Daddyhackingteam, which hosts numerous code snippets for building armies of online soldiers out of hijacked Internet of Things devices. Ever since Mirai hit the headlines, such networks of compromised gadgets are all the rage with wannabe cyber-gangsters: the commandeered machines can be used to launch massive attacks against victims' servers, and so on.

And it seems this kid, or someone pretending to be a kid anyway, set up this website to share malicious code, and hoped to build an army of hijacked CCTV cameras.

From June to August, the teen made numerous inquiries on his forum about subverting internet-connected cameras. It appears he was somewhat successful, and began to build a small botnet using a Gr1n malware variant – which takes over internet-facing devices by brute-forcing their login passwords. This itself is a fork of the Poole software nasty.

While researching the upstart botnet herder, NewSky's bods noticed the kid was using his or her Skype ID on IT job websites. In one post, the person publicly answered a 'help wanted' job advert for running servers during his school holidays with their hacker Skype ID.

"We found it either bold or immature of a malware author to use the same contact information for job hunting as well as for malicious activities," said Ankit Anubhav, principal researcher at NewSky, on Tuesday. "However, in his job search attempt, he mentions that he is 13 years old, which pretty much explains the dual use."

The researchers messaged the character and engaged in a conversation. The teenager cheerfully admitted to infecting 300 devices to build a mini botnet, although the cyber-tyke complained they still hadn't cracked any CCTV cameras.

When the infosec pros explained who they were and that what he or she was doing was highly illegal, the little rascal said they were aware that it was naughty, but didn't think they'd get into serious trouble because they are a minor.

"While various laws do have less harsh sentences for juveniles, in this case, we see this person taking advantage of that," noted Anubhav.

The researcher reckons setting up a botnet is literally child's play these days, in part because malware authors are giving away the code on GitHub and elsewhere to easily install and run. He suspects this is because IoT botnets are difficult to monetize and it's still a new area of research.

We've pinged the teen – aka quickscopegoespro69 – for comment, and will let you know if they get back to us. ®

Updated to add

Quickscope has been in touch to say, and we repeat this verbatim:

im somewhere and im almost positive i wont be found. I just came to the botnet community because i found it as a way to enhance my coding skillset I was planning to get out after i mastered python and C but now the feds gonna be all over my ass i bought plane tickets im leaving the country i will be amazed if im caught by the time my flight leaves

Color us skeptical, but we're not entirely convinced this person is 13 years old.

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