Malware writers are pinching anti-pirate technology embedded into some of the world's most popular software to protect their own, according to Symantec.
A key generator, just one measure used to mitigate anti-piracy measures. (Screenshot by Darren Pauli/ZDNet Australia)
The antivirus company said writers of complex malware toolkits can embed measures to prevent users from stealing their work.
This means the writers are able to rent the toolkits to non-technical users who then embed the malware into websites in hopes of duping victims out of information such as bank account details.
Writers may also take a commission in an "affiliate system" from the value of victim information stolen using the kits.
Anti-piracy measures used in the most popular software, including Symantec products, have been reverse-engineered and distributed over the internet.
"They are using the same Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology used as major software," Symantec head Craig Scroggie said. "They are locking down their software for a minimal amount of use or they are changing the IP reply domain so they have to be involved in the sale."
"They will build their own DRM, steal it from the big names or cobble it together."
Most would-be buyers of the toolkits lack the technical understanding to reverse-engineer the DRM measures.
The price of a malware toolkit has risen substantially, Scroggie said, from about $15 in 2006 to more than $8000.
"The premium is because of the success rate," Scroggie said.