Looks like malware purveyors have added affiliate programs to the business model. The upside of this activity is the longer the chain of unrelated participants — particularly with the paper trail of payments added to the mix — the more likely the chain breaks down somewhere and the legal system catches up with the entire bunch.
From the link:
Sites like Amazon offer affiliate programs that pay users for sending them new customers. And now, malware authors, always quick to adopt tactics that work elsewhere, have developed their own affiliate program, which was described in a talk given today at the Black Hat DC computer security conference in Washington, DC.
Kevin Stevens, an analyst at Atlanta-based security consulting company SecureWorks, says sites with names like “Earnings4U” offer to pay users for each file they can install on someone else’s PC; the practice is called “pay per install.” Stevens found sites offering rates ranging from $180 per 1,000 installs on PCs based in the U.S. to $6 per 1,000 installs on PCs based in Asian countries.
As he researched the practice, Stevens says he discovered a number of companies engaged in pay per install. These companies periodically change their names to dodge the authorities. He also found forums where users shared tips for making more money, and a variety of sophisticated tools developed to make it easier for them to install malware. “It’s almost like a real, legitimate business,” he said.