With China’s economy cooling down, some of the country’s IT professionals are turning to cybercrime, according to a Beijing-based security expert. Speaking at the CanSecWest security conference last week, the CEO of Knownsec, a Beijing security company, said that while many Chinese workers may be feeling hard times, business is still booming in the country’s cybercrime industry.
"As the stock market dropped like a stone, a lot of IT professionals lost lots of money on the stock market," he said. "So sometimes they sell 0days," he said, referring to previously unknown software bugs. "China is not only the world’s factory, but also the world’s malware factory," the CEO said.
China’s red-hot economy has been hit by the global recession, and while the economy is still growing, technology companies such as Intel, Motorola, and Lenovo have all laid off employees in China in recent months. In December 2008, Chinese hackers found a previously undisclosed 0day vulnerability in Internet Explorer. When employees of the CEO’s company inadvertently published details of the bug on a public forum, Microsoft was sent scrambling to patch the issue. Chinese hackers tend to focus on hacking software that runs on the desktop, rather than the server, because the underground market pays big money for client-side bugs, which are then often used to install malicious software on millions of desktops. While recently investigating a single, but widespread attack, the CEO’s researchers counted more then 4 million infected computers over a one-day period. China has an estimated 250 million computer users, so attackers can do pretty well targeting only Chinese systems. "We have a huge amount of users and a very big local market," he said.