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Malware now being developed by pre-teens: AVG

Kids may be getting into laptops, tablets and smartphones earlier than ever before, but this also extends to the development of malicious code for those devices, according to AVG's Q4 2012 Community Powered Threat Report, which found evidence of pre-teens writing malware.

To support this claim, AVG Technologies' chief technology officer, Yuval Ben-Itzhak, points to an incident where an 11-year-old child developed a Trojan to steal game login information.

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"We have now seen a number of examples of very young individuals writing malware, including an 11-year-old from Canada," he said.

Ben-Itzhak said the code usually takes the form of a basic Trojan written using the .NET framework.

"[.NET] is easy to learn for beginners and simple to deploy via a link in an email or posted on a social media page," he said.

While stealing somebody's game logins may at first seem a minor problem, Ben-Itzhak said online gaming accounts are often connected to credit card details for in-game purchases.

As for what motivates these junior programmers, Ben-Itzhak said it is by the "thrill of outwitting their peers" and not "financial gain."

As many gamers have a tendency to use the same login details for other online services, such as Facebook and Twitter, the victim also runs the risk of cyber-bullying or identity theft.

"It is also logical to assume that at least some of those responsible will be tempted to experiment with much more serious cyber-crimes," Ben-Itzhak said.

Too cool for school

Another key finding in the report was that exploit toolkits were responsible for almost 60 per cent of all threat activity online was performed in 2012.

Ben-Itzhak said the kits are likely the result of established cyber-criminals creating and selling commercial toolkits at a premium to less technically savvy users.

One new exploit toolkit from late 2012 that is an example of this is the Cool Toolkit, which in turn bore more than a passible resemblance to the Blackhole Exploit Kit.

While the Blackhole toolkit accounted for 40 per cent of the top web threats in Q4 2012, the new one claimed 16 per cent.

Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.


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