Preston Gralla

Malware writing: We're number one!

March 19, 2007 11:27 AM EDT
Worried that the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world in technology because our broadband penetration is so poor, and our higher education system so lousy in turning out engineers? Take heart: When it comes to writing malware and viruses, we kick butt, leading the rest of the world by a wide margin.

The latest Internet Security Threat Report released by Symantec says that the highest percentage of malware originates in the U.S., with some 31% coming from U.S. networks. China is a distant second, with 10%, and Germany was third with 7%.

We're the world leader in another dubious way as well. The majority of so-called "underground economy servers" run by criminal gangs  are hosted in the U.S. as well. According to Symantec, these underground economy servers "are often used by hackers and criminal organizations to sell stolen information, including social security numbers, credit cards, personal identification numbers (PINs), and e-mail address lists."

In the last six months of 2006, the Symantec report says, "51% of all the known underground servers in the world were located in the United States."

The report goes on to note that on the servers, "U.S.-based credit cards with a card verification number were available for between US $1 - $6 while an identity, including a U.S. bank account, credit card, date of birth and government issued identification number, was available for between US $14 - $18."

What conclusion can one draw from our leading the world in malware writing and criminally run underground economy servers?

It's an inevitable result of a thriving free market and tech expertise. An underground economy often mirrors the legal, above-ground one. Scratch a criminal, and sometimes you find a misguided entrepreneur, looking to get rich a little too quick.

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