A year ago, I published a series that sought to identify the real-life hackers behind the top spam botnets. Using much the same methodology, I was able to identify and locate a young man in Russia who appears (and privately claims) to be the author of Flashback. As it happens, this individual hangs out on many of the same forums as the world’s top spammers (but more on that at another time).
Given Flashback’s focus on gaming Google’s ad networks, I suspected that the worm’s author probably was a key member of forums that focus on so-called
black hat SEO, (search engine optimisation), or learned in illicit ways to game search engines and manipulate ad revenues. Sure enough, this individual happens to be a very active and founding member of BlackSEO.com, a closely guarded Russian language forum dedicated to this topic.
Below is a screen shot taken from a private message between a
VIP user named
Mavook and a top forum member on BlackSEO.com. The conversation took place on 14 July 2012. A rough translation of their conversation is superimposed on the redacted screen grab, but basically it shows Mavook asking the senior member for help in gaining access to Darkode.com, a fairly exclusive English-language cybercrime forum (and one that I profiled in a story earlier this week).
Mavook asks the other member to get him an invitation to Darkode, and Mavook is instructed to come up with a brief bio stating his accomplishments, and to select a nickname to use on the forum if he’s invited. Mavook replies that the Darkode nick should be not be easily tied back to his BlackSEO persona, and suggests the nickname
Macbook. He also states that he is the
Creator of Flashback botnet for Macs, and that he specialises in
finding exploits and creating bots — via redwolf.newsvine.com