A hacker has revealed that a Russian software company is behind a security scam to take money from spam and botnets.
The hacker revealed via files posted online that Bakasoftware makes millions per year through an elaborate scheme that relies on email spam and indirectly controlling thousands of unprotected PCs.
The company claims to make an antivirus program called Antivirus XP 2009 for English-speaking computer users. The program lodges itself on a victim's computer and then begins generating a series of pop-up messages warning that the user's computer is infected.
If the user responds to the warnings, he or she is urged to buy a $49.95 program for disinfecting the machine.
The hacker, who identified himself as Neon, broke into a computer used by Bakasoftware for accounting.
Neon said that Bakasoftware's sales scheme relies on a network of affiliates. Once an affiliate is invited to participate, it is given access to a control panel allowing it to distribute different types of mechanisms for infecting internet-connected computers.
He claimed that affiliates get 58 to 90 per cent commission on sales of the software, explaining why the rogue anti-malware products are so popular among hackers and spammers. Some could earn up to $5 million a year in the scam.
According to the New York Times, when the Bakasoftware program starts, it checks the language of the computer user based on information contained in the Windows operating system. If it finds the personal computer of a Russian language speaker, the program shuts down.