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Ukraine shuts down forum for malware writers

But VX Heavens probably didn't pose much of a threat in the current cybercrime landscape

Ukrainian authorities have shut down a long-running forum that was used to trade tips on writing malicious software, a sign the country's law enforcement may be watching hackers more closely.

Administrators for the forum, VX Heavens, wrote that its servers were seized on March 23 for allegedly creating and intending to sell malicious software programs, a violation of Ukraine's criminal code. The website called the accusation "absurd" but said it couldn't offer services with the pending court case.

VX Heavens might have been easy pickings for Ukraine, which has been noted by computer security experts as being a hotbed of cybercrime.

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for security vendor Sophos, wrote that VX Heavens operated for many years, hosting virus-writing tutorials and malicious code samples. But the site is likely just a small player in an expansive cybercriminal underground.

"The folks using the VX Heavens website were probably not in the same league as the financially-motivated organized criminals computer users are often troubled by today, and mirror rather more the hobbyist malware authors of yesteryear," Cluley wrote.

"Nevertheless, it's clear that the Ukrainian authorities didn't like what they saw and have confiscated the website's servers in their hunt for evidence of criminality," he wrote.

Ukraine has stepped up its computer crime and fraud enforcement efforts in recent years. Last June its security service, the SBU, said it busted a cybercrime ring that stole some US$72 million using Conficker, a fast-spreading worm that appeared in 2008.

Since October 2009, the FBI has stationed a supervisory special agent at the U.S. Embassy in Kiev to assist with cybercrime investigations that target the U.S.

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