Citadel malware: Buy it while you can, scammers

Get it while you can, is the cry from the denizens of the Russian-speaking malware underworld regarding the Citadel Trojan, offered openly for $2,500, plus more for plug-ins and a monthly fee for "membership" in Citadel's crimeware syndicate. But now the Citadel gang is taking the malware off the open market.

It seems that with law enforcement "hot on their heels," the gang is pulling Citadel from the open malware market where it has been available, according to the RSA FraudAction Research Lab. "It appears that only existing customers will continue to enjoy Citadel Trojan upgrades and those wishing to purchase a new kit from the outside will have to get a current customer to vouch for them or be denied the product altogether." These "customers" are botmasters using the crimeware package to steal from banks and their online customers.

MORE: US warns users of new Citadel ransomware hit

IN OTHER NEWS: Does two-factor authentication need to be fixed?

The Citadel "product" is an evolution of the notorious ZeuS v2 Trojan used mainly for banking fraud operations. First noticed last January, Citadel is the first believed to have its own "dedicated CRM [customer-relationship management] where dubious clientele can congregate, raise issues, get support and request new modules to be implemented," says RSA.

RSA says Citadel CRM is a mandatory part of using the malware, and if fraudsters and botmasters using Citadel fail to pay their dues, they don't get the next version upgrade. Since its release, by the Russian-speaking crimeware developers, it's had an estimated four major upgrades.

It's possible the cry from the crimeware developers that Citadel is being pulled from the open market is simply a marketing ploy to whip up a sense of urgency and drive more sales. But by limiting their clientele using Citadel, it could work to the crooks' advantage by lessening software support demands and lessening the chance of cybercrime arrests.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

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