March 17, 2010, 10:39AM
Zeus Trojan Now Has Hardware Licensing Scheme


by Dennis Fisher
The authors of the Zeus bot client, perhaps the most popular and pervasive piece of malware of its kind right now, have taken an extraordinary step to protect their creation: inserting a hardware-based licensing scheme into the Trojan. This represents a significant leap in the sophistication and professionalism of malware development, researchers say.

Zeus has been making the rounds on the Web for some time now, and it has gone through a number of revisions and upgrades in recent months. Its creators, who remain unknown, have steadily added more and more features and functionality to the package, including a form grabber for Firefox, the ability to add extra data fields to online banking applications, a backconnect module and support for Windows Vista and Windows 7.
Much of this is fairly standard stuff, but the addition of the hardware licensing/activation scheme is an interesting, unique twist. Researchers at SecureWorks have been analyzing each new iteration of the Zeus kit and found that the latest release, version 1.3.4.x, added this functionality, likely in an effort to prevent rivals from selling pirated versions of the attack kit.

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