Security researchers this week discovered an NSA cyber espionage program that installs malware in hard drive firmware, making it hard to detect or delete. It's serious stuff, but there's a light side to this story.
Kaspersky's researchers also published a list of URLs that the malware uses to "phone home" and pass information back to agents. Now, the NSA could use random, gibberish domains, but those look suspicious. So, instead, the agency registered and ran second-rate domains like newjunk4u.com and nickleplatedads.com. (Aside: Is that nickel plate dads or nickel-plated ads?)
Of course, these URLs have now been compromised, which means the NSA has no use for them. That does raise the possibility that the government could sell the domains off like the other unused gear it accrues. That's quite unlikely, but Wired got an expert to survey the list and generate an estimate. Domains like xLiveHost.com could be turned into a porn site, and might be worth up to $7,000, according to domain broker Dave Evanson. But CustomerScreenSavers.com is the best of the lot, and could net $40,000. He estimates the total list of over a hundred URLs could be worth up to $200,000.
Which ones are you interested in? Here are some of our top picks.