Why Cybercrime is Thriving

A new Symantec report reveals just how large and sophisticated the online underground economy has grown

As it is getting worse, it seems to be getting much more sophisticated. Can you give some details of the new roles that have evolved in this black economy?

It's incredibly sophisticated. It's a self-sustaining economy. It mimics traditional free-market capitalist market economics. It's all about supply and demand.

Look at the goods and services that are advertised online. Credit card information, for instance, was 31 percent of all advertisements online. Because of the demand, dollar amounts are being funneled to other places. You can buy all the tools necessary to actually aid in the collection of and the theft of credit card information. It is its own little self-sustaining world that operates like any other physical black market economy.

One category that is rising quickly is financial accounts. What is for sale and what is bought and sold are things that result in a quick transfer of cash. Credit cards are used to buy other items online. But we are seeing an increase in financial accounts where money can be cashed out immediately.

And there are new job classes. We have seen development in the role of the "cashier." Cashiers are in the country where the money is being cashed out and they will recruit people who fit the profile of the person being scammed. That person goes to that service where they money is being held and cashes out that money. Financial accounts can hold balances up to $40,000. So, if you've got a compromised account and can transfer those funds to another account, that is real cash immediately.

Give us a picture of just how lucrative it is to deal in cybercrime.

All told, when we look at the top 10 advertisers, they make up a small proportion. The underground economy also has a lot of casual participants. IRC has tens of thousand of participants and they are making real money.

How are these criminals communicating now? Is it as easy as a Google search to find black market-type information?

Sadly, you probably could do that. We've seen video tutorials on YouTube for that sort of thing. Not to say YouTube is a haven, but that's one of the kinds of mediums now used. We've seen groups like the Shadow Crew in the past that have set up web sites. Now there us a fair amount of attention paid by the FBI and The US Secret Service to targeting groups with a web presence. And the net affect is they have done a great job shutting down these groups, like the Shadow Crew. I think Shadow Crew was responsible for about ten million bucks in credit card fraud in just 2 years.

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