DarkComet shut-down shows law enforcement works

The author of the infamous DarkComet, a remote administration tool used to command malware-infected computers, says he has stopped development of the software to avoid arrest.

The ending of the DarkComet RAT project is an indication that law enforcement efforts are having an impact, says the security vendor Symantec.

The project's demise follows shortly after the arrest of a suspected developer of the Blackshades RAT, similar software that was also used by malware creators. In June, a sting operation led by the FBI resulted in the arrest of two-dozen people worldwide, including Michael Hogue, who went by the name of xVisceral.

DarkComet made headlines in February, when it was used in siphoning information from the computers of Syrian activists opposed to dictator Bashar al-Assad, security vendor Symantec said. The Syrian regime was behind the cyber-espionage campaign, which tricked victims into downloading the Backdoor.Breut Trojan.

[More in CSO's Malware and Cybercrime Topic Center]

In a statement published on the DarkComet website, the author said misuse of the tool had exposed him to possible prosecution. "Unlike so many of you seem to believe, I can be held responsible of (sic) actions, and if there is something I will not tolerate is to have to pay the consequences for your mistakes and I will not cover for you," the statement, published on Symantec's blog, said. It was apparently addressed to cybercriminals.

RATs are typically associated with malicious software spread by hackers to commandeer Internet-connected computers in order to steal personal information, such as credit card numbers, online banking passwords and corporate intellectual property. Once the malware is installed, RATs make it possible for hackers to control the compromised system and send stolen data to a remote server.

In the past, RAT authors believed they were immune to prosecution by claiming their software was for educational purposes, Symantec said. However, that argument has offered little in the way of protection, starting with the arrest two years ago of the alleged developer of the software behind the Mariposa botnet, which infected more than half of the Fortune 1,000 companies and at least 40 major banks, the blog KrebsonSecurity reported.

As a result, RAT authors, like the DarkComet developer, are getting nervous. "There is a fear of getting in trouble from these authors, even if they are not using the tools themselves," Liam O Murchu, manager of operations for Symantec Security Response, said on Monday.

While some hackers are capable of writing their own RATs, many do not have the skills and depend on others to supply the tools. While DarkComet was available for free, other RAT developers sell their products on the underground.

Whether law enforcement pressure will make it more difficult for cybercriminals to find RATs or lead to less innovation is not yet known, Murchu said. Symantec has seen a steady number of new developers replace those who quit.

"It's hard to tell if that's a trend that's going to continue, where they will be constantly replaced by other people, or if over time, there won't be people who will step up and take the risk," Murch said. "We just have to wait and see what happens."

Read more about malware/cybercrime in CSOonline's Malware/Cybercrime section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Antone Gonsalves

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts