back to article Trojan armed with hardware-based anti-piracy control

The latest version of the Zeus do-it-yourself crimeware kit goes to great lengths to thwart would-be pirates by introducing a hardware-based product activation scheme similar to what's found in Microsoft Windows. The newest version with bare-bones capabilities starts at $4,000 and additional features can fetch as much as $10, …


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  1. Leo Maxwell
    Jobs Horns

    One more reason to dump windows then:)

    Of course, Macs and Linux are pretty much safe from this C**P, (maybe not for ever, but for now)

    1. Steve K Silver badge


      I don't follow your logic here?

      How do you make your insightful deduction here?

      1. Old Marcus


        Mac OS X isn't so safe these days, but with most Linux distros being free and open anyway, pirating them is somewhat pointless. Savvy?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Please Reply Dan

        I'm sure Dan will enlighten us.

        Dan, does this attack work on Linux and Mac PC's?

    2. Solomon Grundy


      What are you talking about Leo? Did you even read the article?

      1. Keith Oldham

        Re : Huh?

        Oddly enough I have read the article and the related links and Leo is correct. This is about a Windows trojan variant - nothing to do with Mac OSX or Linux or Unix or BSDs. Nothing to do with pirating anything other than the (protected) trojan.

        Leo did say "(maybe not for ever, but for now)"

    3. Pete 6

      It might be one more reason...

      But theres still no good reason at all to get a Mac.

    4. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      Wake up you muppet!

      Nice! Thanks for enforcing the attitude that all of us Linux and Mac users are wrapped in our perfect little bubbles of security, care-free!

      Balls! Wake up and smell Steve's coffee! I own a Mac and having spent years learning to fight off nasties on my Windows kit I am not so complacent. I know there are limited nasties on the Linux and OSX platforms, the money isn't there yet to make it worth while. However as more people get fed up with Windows, the market share increases for OSX and Linux and as it does we will start catch the malware maker's eye.

      You'd better start learning about proper Linux and OSX security, because Linus and Steve don't give a monkey's about us, so we need to learn to do it ourselves, not live in this perfect little bubble of protection that Steve and Penguin fanbois would have us believe!!!

  2. Quxy
    Gates Horns

    For once, Microsoft really IS the leader

    Undoubtedly, this product activation scheme has been implemented to "ensure that Zeus's customers receive the product quality they expect". Microsoft must be so proud of their proteges!

    1. jackharrer

      Don't worry

      Don't worry, soon we will be able to get a cracked version from TPB. We all know that there is no such thing as working DRM.

  3. asdf

    russia eastern europe morals

    Got to love how criminals can almost legitimately build up a prospering company in that part of the world. I guess the only difference between them and Wall Street is we have fully legalized our thieves.

  4. ZenCoder

    Professional virus development.

    This scares me.

    Right now most of the malware being written is crap thrown together by incompetent and unprofessional programmers. They succeed only because most of their targets are even more clueless and fail to take even the most basic security precautions.

    All that will change if we start seeing teams of highly skilled professional developers developing commercial crime ware products.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      They are

      Who says they've been outed yet? When thinking "commercial", think big - like industrial espionage.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      2+ years 2 late

      Already being done, The banking malware is passing right through Anti virus products. It has been professionally created for a number of years, and is not designed to affect the end user's experience.

      Don't confuse the run of the mill malware with professional made banking malware.

  5. Steen Hive
    Thumb Up

    Is this copy if Zeus legal?

    "You may have been the victim of software counterfeiting"

    1. Anonymous Coward

      More like

      "This copy of Zeus has been detected as illegal. Two wrongs do not make a right."

  6. Law

    surely some mistake!?

    Criminal hackers worried their criminal customers would attempt to rip them off?? Tis madness I tells you!!

    1. PunkTiger

      You know what they say...

      No honour among thieves, and all that.

  7. Ryan 7

    There is no Windows 7 Business

    It's Vista Business or 7 Professional.

  8. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Copy protection system

    And the irony is, due to broken laws here in the US like the DMCA, these guys could then turn around and sue the antivirus companies for cracking copy protection systems, since they certainly do obtain copies of this software and analyze it to see how it works. Down with the DMCA!

    1. Chris Harden
      Thumb Up


      I would LOVE to see that!

  9. TimeMaster T

    This is great..

    I can't help chuckling at this, I wonder how long its going to be before someone cracks the activation scheme?

    On a side note, how many buyers are going to want to provide registration info that identifies the specific machine this software is installed on knowing how easy that would be to track down?

    Think of how much fun Interpol would have if they ever got that list.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ah, but

    some crafty little fucker will reverse engineer this and produce a bypass zeus activation kit, and a keygen so that you can get the multi licence enterprise edition. same of course as what happens with that windows stuff, except thats called bypass wat. no, wat not what.

    by the way there is no need to bot linux, just use the command line, linux does it all for you.

    1. Oninoshiko

      yes, but

      why bother? If you have the expertese couldn't you just write your own malware? then again, I dont claim to understand the mindset of all of these people....

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Consider who their arm of FAST will look like

      These guys are professional criminals with enforcement arms, they are unlike to take you to court, but will probably send flowers..........

    3. Keith Oldham

      Re : ah,but

      "by the way there is no need to bot linux, just use the command line, linux does it all for you."

      Explain !

    4. Steve Roper

      And then

      the Zeus programmers will release malware-infected keygens on the pirate scene for their own software that will add the would-be Zeus pirates to their <cough>"legitimate"<cough> customers' botnets.

      This is getting too weird...

  11. Anonymous Coward


    Ain't it great!

  12. Jelliphiish

    i see what you did there..

    microsoft and a malware company use the same techniques.. gosh, do you think microsoft are bad too?

  13. DavCrav

    Another reason...

    to cut off Russia/China/etc. from the Internet. Do we actually need them? Really? They can have their own internet...

    I know that most spam originates from neither of those two, but taking out those two would make the Internet a much better place.

    As it happened, I started out being fairly un-xenophobic, but every time I read a story about foreigners pulling shit like this... Grr. (I guess that's what the rest of the world feels like when the US goes and invades countries because they feel like it...)

  14. Keith T

    @Leo Maxwell: You're using security by obscurity

    Using Mac is using security by obscurity.

    If you were at a competitive industry, a bank, or a government agency, places commonly attacked with custom malware, a Mac would be a terrible platform, because there could be so many unknown attacks coming at you.

    Mac's OSes have not been carefully examined by publicity hungry malware designers (unethical security experts) and malware authors for vulnerabilities. Those vulnerabilities are there, unfixed, and unknown to laypeople.

    With Linux, well, contrary to what you think lots of Linux systems are broken into.

  15. Keith T

    Where is law enforcement and the intelligence community?

    Malware on the computers of civilians is a serious security exposure to the nation.

    Malware on the computers of civilians is a criminal theft exposure to the nation.

    Law enforcement and the defence intelligence communities should be after the people who distribute malware authoring tools.

    Put them in Guantanamo and let the comparatively harmless Muslim "terrorists" return home.

  16. Anonymous Coward


    > "The latest version of Zeus is"

    c00l eV3n t3h v3rs10n nUm3eR i5 l337 ;)

  17. peter 5 Silver badge

    I can't believe nobody has said this...

    ...but clearly, there's no honour amongst thieves.

    You won't find my coat: it's being beta tested by some completely respectable looking Russian business men.

  18. 1uncle

    Not always

    If your computer stops working and you have the disc, you should be able to put it on your new computer. Always get a disc..

  19. Skrrp

    The other side of the coin

    Does this also mean that you can disinfect (or at least deactivate) a nasty infection just by screwing with its registration key?

    If I change my motherboard, will I now have to phone up the botnet control to ask them to reactivate my install key?

  20. Sitaram Chamarty

    malware see, malware do

    this post just about made my day/week/month.

    I've always considered Windows to be the biggest piece of malware floating around, and MS to be of questionable legality in various aspects (and not just the anti-trust stuff), so it's nice to know they're inspiring "the next generation" so to speak...

  21. Anonymous Coward


    Cunning and undoubtedly clever and devious programs such as this, with their inside knowledge of all the tricks may well come up with a pretty good copy protection system.

    1. A J Stiles

      I sorely doubt it

      Proper copy protection is *impossible*.

      Not just supremely difficult, like manufacturing DNA from scratch and then getting it to breed: actually scientifically impossible, like getting more energy out of something than you put into it.

  22. Hani Jabr

    @Keith T

    "Mac would be a terrible platform, because there could be so many unknown attacks coming at you."

    Ah, so the many known, unpatched exploints on the Windows platform, plus the many unknown ones, make for a far more secure system? Really? A new model - security through insecurity?

    Security researchers have been screaming about the Mac being an open platform for malware for years now - usually just before they launch an anti-virus product for mac. One that has no viruses and no trojans to scan for. You'd think, if it was so easy, someone somewhere would have written a dozen or two by now, but not even one has appeared.

    "With Linux, well, contrary to what you think lots of Linux systems are broken into."

    Yeah, right, sure, I believe you. Are you by any chance launching a linux-based anti-virus software product soon?

  23. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Every copy of Zeus is illegal, paid for or not.

    On principle I don't use closed-source hacking tools :-)

    (And activation-cracked Zeus warez is maybe the software most likely to be a trojan.)

  24. Stone Fox

    I think someone is pulling your leg a litte

    unless the version really is L337?

  25. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart


    "Zeus .... introducing a hardware-based product activation scheme similar to what's found in Microsoft Windows".

    As I've always suspected, there is very little difference between windows and a virus......

    Seriously though, a large part of this problem is MickySoft's reluctance to distribute original disks with every PC. It’s an error to have a flawed security model in the huge unified mess that is windoze; however it’s an absolute disaster and totally inexcusable when you do not give people the tools to recover from that error.

    Without separate media it is impossible to do a disk reformat and a reinstall of windows, MickySoft's failed policy of only allowing repairs or refreshes of windoze from the easily infectable cab files stored on the hard drive is a failure, as is product activation. MickSoft would sooner stop 1 illegal copy of it software being made rather that prevent 100,00 users getting infected with a virus. And lets face it, copy protection of most MickySoft products has failed miserably as evidenced with the number of copies of <insert name of MickSoft product> available on <insert name of torrent site> or <insert name of download site> or even usenet.

    At least if my *nix boxen go tits up, I can perform a clean (re)install.

    It’s time for MickeySoft to stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution, so until then FOAD MickSoft.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Very clever, I'm sure.

      Anyone know of any other Operating Systems that might be available in a medium other than an original disk set?

      Ah! So we're into "one law for us, one for them" territory are we?

      Unless, of course, this problem is nothing to do with MS, Apple, Canonical et. al. and everything to do with greedy OEMs saving 50p on a sale.......

  26. Anonymous Coward

    @Old Marcus

    "...but with most Linux distros being free and open anyway, pirating them is somewhat pointless. Savvy?"

    Whats that got to do with the article? Did you read it, or were you too busy cockwaving that your machine is unaffected that you couldn't be bothered?

    The article says a mallware control program uses copyright protection and range of packages similar to commercial programs. Its not about anyone trying to pirate an operating system.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Comparison

    The comparison between these malware authors and Microsoft is flawed. They both treat their customers like criminals, but only one of them has a good reason to.

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