No quick patch to kill Duqu, turn back clock to when viruses weren't smarter than your apps

Most blame governments for Stuxnet; is Duqu the same or a huge step forward for digital crooks?

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If the analyses aren't overstating Duqu's sophistication, and the relationship to Stuxnet is real, it's still more likely Duqu was either written or inspired by a national intelligence agency.

But, given that all its targets and the intent of its users appears simply to be industrial espionage, at least right now, it's barely possible Duqu's main intent is both criminal and commercial. If so it's also possible that the agency running it is either a very sophisticated criminal organization or a spinoff from an intelligence agency going into business for itself.

Gordon Gecko has taken control of your servers; please deposit $3M to continue computing

The real problem with Duqu isn't that it might be another example of what James Bond's gagdet-meister Q might have done if he'd had software to play with instead of exploding pens.

The real difference both Stuxnet and Duqu bring to both international cyberwar and everyday corporate computing is that they advance the art of covert data-thieving intelligent agents by so far that they make every other bit of malware look like bent-nosed thugs looking for a car window to break so they can steal the stereo and GPS.

Stuxnet was more the kind of ninja cat burglar who infiltrates through secure skylights and has his way with your systems while dangling from a wire and risking capture at any second.

Duqu wears a suit, walks into your office in daylight and cons everyone in sight out of their watches, wallets and keys to the big old vault filled with filthy money it will take to the dry cleaners and bring right back before you even miss it. It's "Oceans Eleven" compared to "The Fast and the Furious." "The Thomas Crown Affair" compared to "Clockwork Orange."

Duqu sets a standard for technical complexity, sure. It also gives a virtuoso demonstration of just how far a bit of malicious software can go when it's designed, written and used as if it were a sophisticated data- and cash-extraction tool that runs a soft con rather than a smash-and-grab.

If it's a precursor to something even more sophisticated, most of the security industry can just quit now. The next step up in malware evolution wouldn't even have to con your business out of its money or data. It would just take what it wants, hand you junk in return and laugh publicly at how foolish you were to be seduced by something so smooth and smart you never knew you were one of a herd of sheep being called to the slaughter.

With just one more step up in sophistication, Stuxnet, Duqu and all their descendants won't even be viruses.

They'll be Wall Street.

Photo Credit: 

Symantec: Duqu: the precursor to the next Stuxnet, flowchart of Duqu installation procedure.

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