Think Globally, Attack Locally

Carl Weinschenk

One of the attractions and downright charms of the Internet is its universality. It is just as easy to find a bakery in Charlotte as in Cairo -- from a Starbucks in Caracas. For the most part, viruses and malware are universal as well. While their places of origin generally are concentrated, malicious software often spreads evenly throughout the online world.


Perhaps that is no longer true, however. This InfoWorld article points to the growth of localized malware. The piece first looks at Japan, where users of a locally popular but illegal file-sharing program called Winny are under attack from hackers, who seek to take down machines using it.


The trend may not be so new. In June, for instance, said that Symantec noted a growth in malware aimed Arabic users. W.32A1Nuh monitors and closes windows for system utilities whether they are in English and Arabic. Commentary in the piece focused on whether the malware, which doesn't appear to be too dangerous, represents the first step in what could lead to more serious attempts.


A researcher for McAfee Advert Labs says the company has been seeing the localization for a couple of years. A feature in Sage, McAfee's online magazine, provides more details. One of the main reasons that things are becoming localized is that malware writers -- who now are in the game for money, not headlines -- don't want the attention that comes with a global assault. Malware distributors know that Web users are more savvy, so localization enables more clever initiatives. A third reason is that some regions simply have weaker cyber security, which makes it easier for scammers and spammers to succeed. Finally, different areas rely on the Internet for different things. For instance, the article points out that online banking is big in Brazil and gaming in China. Hackers therefore see an opportunity to distribute malware accordingly in various locales.


Help Net Security offers a more precise point-by-point review of the McAfee study. The heart of the piece is a look at the situation in various regions around the world. The United States is portrayed as "the great malware melting pot" that combines methods found worldwide. In Europe, hackers are translating phishing e-mail to the Internet domain where it is being sent, something that didn't happen in the past.


This TrendMicro post details a second piece of malware aimed at the Japanese market. The piece says the target is the Windows XP SP2 Japanese version that comes loaded with JustSystems' popular Ichitaro 2006 word processing program. The commentary says that this is the third attack against Ichitaro in the past couple of years, and that a patch is available.


In perhaps the first Internet security story that could be posted on a job bulletin board at Berlitz, this piece -- which also was based on the McAfee report -- says hackers are starting to look for computer virus writers with specific language skills. As the world of hacking gets increasingly sophisticated and organized, the mischievous programmers want spam and bogus Web pages that are compelling and grammatically correct. The story quotes the McAfee report as saying that only 67 percent of spam now is written in English. The linguistic quality of hacker materials -- sites and spam -- written in English is markedly better today than a few years ago, the story says.

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