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Techie's Lounge DarkHotel hackers targets company bosses in hotel rooms

False Prophet

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Companies are being warned about ongoing hack attacks that target hi-tech entrepreneurs and other corporate executives in their hotel rooms.

The campaign has been dubbed DarkHotel and is believed to single out specific senior staff when they log in to the net via wi-fi or an Ethernet cable.

The technique puts data at risk even if the employees are using encryption.

The attacks began in 2007, according to research firm Kaspersky Lab.

"The fact that most of the time the victims are top executives indicates the attackers have knowledge of their victims' whereabouts, including name and place of stay," said the Russian security company.

"This paints a dark, dangerous web in which unsuspecting travellers can easily fall."

The firm's research indicates the majority of the attacks to date have taken place in Japan but that visitors to hotels in Taiwan, mainland China, Hong Kong, Russia, South Korea, India, Indonesia, Germany, the US and Ireland have also been targeted.

It said that the effort was "well-resourced", but it was unclear who was responsible.

One independent expert said the hacks should not come as too much of a shock.

"It's unsurprising given the high value of the targets," commented Dr Ian Brown, from the Oxford Internet Institute.

"This is perhaps a wake-up call to big company CEOs who weren't already aware that this kind of thing was going on."
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The scheme works by requesting that the targeted user installs an update to a popular software package shortly after they connect to the net.

Examples include new versions of Adobe Flash, Google Toolbar and Windows Messenger.

The installation files include legitimate software, but with the DarkHotel code added on.

To prevent the malware being detected, the hackers use certificates - the equivalent of a digital password, used under normal circumstances to confirm software is trustworthy.
 

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