Learning More About the Underground Economy: A Case-Study of Keyloggers and Dropzones

Thorsten Holz, Markus Engelberth, Felix Freiling

Eu­ropean Sym­po­si­um on Re­se­arch in Com­pu­ter Se­cu­ri­ty (ESO­RICS), Saint Malo, France, September 2009


We study an active underground economy that trades stolen digital credentials. In particular, we investigate keylogger-based stealing of credentials via dropzones, anonymous collection points of illicitly collected data. Based on the collected data from more than 70 dropzones, we present an empirical study of this phenomenon, giving many first-hand details about the attacks that were observed during a seven-month period between April and October 2008. We found more than 33 GB of keylogger data, containing stolen information from more than 173,000 victims. Analyzing this data set helps us better understand the attacker's motivation and the nature and size of these emerging underground marketplaces.


tags: dropzones, Malware, underground economy