The electronic currency site that the Source Code Club said it will use to accept payment for Cisco Systems Inc.s firewall source code is confident it can track down the perpetrators.
Dr. Douglas Jackson, chairman of E-gold Ltd., which runs www.e-gold.com, said the company is already monitoring accounts it believes belong to the Source Code Club, and there has been no activity to date.
“Weve got a pretty good shot at getting them in our system,” said Jackson, adding that the company formally investigates 70 to 80 criminal activities a year and has been able to determine the true identity of users in every case.
On Monday, a member of the Source Code Club posted on a Usenet group that the group is selling the PIX 6.3.1 firewall firmware for $24,000, and buyers can purchase anonymously using e-mail, PGP keys and e-gold.com, which doesnt confirm identities of its users.
“Bad guys think they can cover their tracks in our system, but they discover otherwise when it comes to an actual investigation,” said Jackson.
The purpose of the e-gold system, which is based on 1.86 metric tons of gold worth the equivalent of roughly $25 million, is to guarantee immediate payment, avoid market fluctuations and defaults, and ease transactions across borders and currencies. There is no credit line, and payments can only be made if covered by the amount in the account. Like the Federal Reserve, there is a finite value in the system. There are currently 1.5 million accounts at e-gold.com, 175,000 of those Jackson considers “active.”
To have value, or e-gold, in an account, users must receive a payment in e-gold. Often, new account holders will pay cash to existing account holders in return for e-gold. Or, in the case of SCC, they will receive payment for a service.
The only way to cash out of the system is to pay another party for a service or cash trade, which Jackson said creates an increasingly traceable web of activity.
He did offer a caveat, however: “There is always the risk that they are clever enough to figure out an angle for offloading their e-gold in a way that leads to a dead end, but that tends to be much more difficult than most bad guys think.”
This is all assuming the SCC actually receives a payment, or even has the source code in the first place.
Its the ultimate buyer beware—the code could be made up, tampered with or may not exist. And because the transaction through e-gold is instantaneous and guaranteed, there is no way for the buyer to back out.
Just a Publicity Stunt
Dave Hawkins, technical support engineer with Radware Inc. in Mahwah, N.J., believes SCC is merely executing a publicity stunt.
“If they had such real code, its more likely they would have sold it in underground forums to legitimate hackers rather than broadcasting the sale on Usenet,” he said. “Anyone who did have the actual code would probably keep it secret, examining it to build private exploits. By selling it, it could find its way into the public, and all those juicy vulnerabilities [would] vanish in the next version.”
“Theres really no way to tell if this is legitimate,” said Russ Cooper, senior scientist with security firm TruSecure Corp. of Herndon, Va. Cooper, however, believes there may be a market for it nonetheless. By posting publicly, SCC is able to get the attention of criminal entities they otherwise might not reach.
“Its advertising from one extortion team to another extortion team,” he said. “These DDOS [distributed denial of service] extortionists, who are trying to get betting sites no doubt would like to have more ways to do that.”
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