Are virus writers the new entrepreneurs?

A McAfee security analyst warns that modus operandi of virus writers and the operations that fund them are reaching new heights of sophistication.

Modern virus writers and the criminal operations which pay for their skills are looking ever more like real businesses according to one security expert, who even likened them to dot-com start-ups.

Greg Day, security analyst at McAfee, said these operations are showing alarming levels of professionalism and while the idea that malware distribution has been governed by a financial motivation in recent years is nothing new, Day says research for McAfee's annual global threat report reveals it has now reached new levels of sophistication and looks set to continue in that trend.

"To me this is starting to look more and more like a proper business," he told silicon.com, with more contributors working to give malware a longer and more effective shelf life.

Day said an 'open source mentality' also helps in this regard. The distribution of virus code openly across the internet and greater collusion between writers are key in contributing towards what appears to be a very real research and development cycle within these organisations.

"The mentality of open source is helping them," said Day. "More brains equals better technology. Open source is a great idea, it's just a shame they've taken that great concept and are using its success for their own benefit."

Day said virus writers and those who stand to gain from the bot-nets and malware will be asking themselves questions about how they can move their business on by growing it, innovating and developing new products. They will be drawing from tools available online and they will be looking at their business in the way many more mature, legitimate companies do.

"They'll be asking 'What functionality do we need to bring in to give this a second life?'," said Day. "I can't help but look at these trends and think of it in terms of a start-up."

Will Sturgeon of Silicon.com reported from London.

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