There were murmurings on Monday that the infamous author of the Black Hole exploit kit, who goes by the name “Paunch”, had been arrested in Russia.
Two security researchers on Monday claimed the person behind one of the greatest scourges of the Internet had been arrested, though details of the reported arrest remain vague with no official word from authorities in Russia.
“Blackhole exploit kit author 'Paunch' and his partners arrested in Russia", a researcher at Netherlands-based security firm Fox-IT tweeted on Monday morning.
Aleks Gostev, Chief Security Expert, Global Research and Analysis Team at Kaspersky Lab, later made a similar claim: “Some of my sources just confirmed arrest of #BlackHole author. Sorry, no more details yet.”
According to security researcher Kafeine, the site crypt.am, a site run by Paunch that enabled rapid domain registration, was also down on Monday.
The BlackHole exploit kit, and others like it, have spawned a crime-ware as a service industry by making it simple for criminals, regardless of their technical skills, to build a botnet.
The exploit kits help criminals remotely hack computers with pre-packaged bundle of attacks for vulnerabilities in popular software, such as Java and Flash, which can be exploited through the browser. Typically the exploit kit is hosted on a compromised website and would allow the criminal to serve up malware, such as ransomware or keyloggers, to victims.
Black Hole v2.0 went on sale in September 2012 with separate pricing for hosted and on-premise versions of the software, as reported at the time Kafeine. The hosted version ranged from at $50 per day to $500 per month with variable costs for traffic above a certain limit, while the on-premise version started at $700 for a three month and went up to $1,500 for a one-year license.
Earlier this year, Paunch told investigative security reporter Brian Krebs that he was also the creator of a new high-end exploit kit called Cool, which had an asking price of $10,000 a month. According to that report, an associate of Paunch claimed to have had an initial budget of $100,000 to buy previously unseen browser exploits and un-patched software flaws. Generally, newer exploits were reserved for Cool and later appeared in the cheaper Black Hole kit.