A teen hacker group is selling malware on Discord

When you think of the type of person who might be a hacker, what first comes to mind likely isn’t a teenager. That’s in spite of the fact that there have been several cases of teens getting involved in online crime in the past few years, as we’ve previously written about on the SSLs.com blog. Well, they’re at it again (or, more accurately, haven’t stopped being at it.) Researchers at cybersecurity software firm Avast have discovered an online community of teens dedicated to some dubious online practices.

What the group does

According to Avast, the group is dedicated to exchanging and spreading malware-as-a-service software known as Lunar. The teens have put together toolkits and malware builders that are easy to use so that anyone can create their own DIY malware, even if they lack technical skills.

The situation first came to researchers’ attention when they came across ransomware software that cost only $25, which is far lower than what something like this would usually cost. Upon further investigation, they found that the ransomware encrypted files and changed their extensions to .LUNAR. Other malware they found included crypto miners and information stealers. In contrast to the type of malware the researchers usually encountered, this had a strangely low possibility of profit.

Eventually, they found the creator selling the software on Discord, primarily to 11-16 year-olds. Aside from selling it, the creator also hosted giveaways, took suggestions from clients, shared plugins, and generally hung out with everyone. This was when the researchers discovered that although the malware had the capabilities mentioned in the previous paragraph, it was mainly advertised to carry out some decidedly teenage pranks. These pranks included stealing or deleting Fortnite or Minecraft folders, taking over game accounts, and repeatedly opening a browser window with PornHub on an unsuspecting target’s computer. 

Why malware groups?

Jan Holman, an Avast researcher, believes such groups appeal to young people because hacking is seen as cool and fun. A very modern act of rebellion. It’s also an easy way to make money and requires little to no programming knowledge to create their own malware with these kits; just a little customization, and it’s ready to go. You also can’t discount the community element. Making friends and being part of a group is a powerful thing, especially when you’re a teenager. 

Of course, there are far healthier, less illegal ways to find community as a teenager. Holman stresses that it’s not just the people they’re targeting who are at risk but also they themselves and their families. The malware they purchase may infect their own computer, exposing things like bank details and personal accounts to cybercriminals.

Wrap up

If you suspect your child might be involved in such activities, Avast experts advise parents not to forbid them from certain online places outright but instead teach them to think critically about the dangers that lurk on certain corners of the Internet. Here’s a guide on how to talk to your children about online safety. If they are interested in hacking, you don’t necessarily have to discourage them, as it isn’t always a bad thing, as the media might have led you to believe. There are plenty of ethical hackers out there who work in the realm of cybersecurity. But it’s crucial that they know the ramifications of carrying out illicit activities in a digital setting and that stealing from someone online is no different from stealing from someone in “real life”.

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