AVG's latest community threat report has unearthed an interesting trend: pre-teen cybercriminals. The security firm claims that an increasing number of pint-sized programmers are writing malicious code designed to steal login details from online gamers, including one perpetrator who was just 11 years old.
Kid Hacker picture from Shutterstock
"You may not believe that [a kid] could design a Trojan horse that is able to steal the account login information of your favourite online game, but we see these cases on a daily basis," the AVG report claims.
AVG gives the example of an 11-year-old boy from Canada who stole account information from the multiplayer first-person shooter game Team Fortress. Apparently, this kind of behavior is becoming increasingly rife among pre-teen gamers.
Most 'kiddie Trojans' are written using .NET framework (Visual Basic, C#) due to its beginner-friendly learning curve and ease of deployment.
"You can download Microsoft Visual Studio Express edition for free and use it to start coding malware, or you can download pirated full versions of Borland Delphi for rapid (malware) application development," the report explains.
Yuval Ben-Itzhak, AVG's chief technology officer, said the majority of perpetrators were chiefly interested in obtaining gamer data and outsmarting friends, rather than unlawful financial gain. However, with online gaming accounts often linked to credit card details, the nature of the crime remains significant.
As the report notes, online game accounts often have hundreds of dollars of software or virtual in-game currency attached to them.
"It is also logical to assume that at least some of those responsible will be tempted to experiment with much more serious cyber-crimes,” Itzhak added.
Despite being tech-savvy, the report notes that many of the code authors unintentionally left traces in the malware's binary files, which makes them easy to track down.
The report also flags the dramatic rise of mobile-based malware and the continued prevalence of exploit toolkits in online threats. While we certainly don't countenance malware, it's good to see kids learning programming skills at a young age.