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Russian Cybercrime Doubled Last Year To $2.3 Billion

Organized crime groups unite Russian cybercrime gangs, report says

The traditionally disparate and segmented cybercrime industry in Russia is becoming more consolidated and organized as professional crime syndicates team with cybercrime gangs, according to a newly published report.

Overall, the global cybercrime market hit $12.5 billion in 2011 -- $2.3 billion of which came from the Russian national cybercrime scene, up from $1.2 billion in 2010. Russian-speaking cybercrime, or fraud committed by Russian-speaking hackers in their home countries or in other countries, was a whopping $4 billion last year, according to Group-IB, a Russia-based cybercrime investigation and computer forensics firm.

Online fraud and spam are the biggest money-makers for Russian cybercrime, with online fraud (online banking, phishing, and other financial fraud) at $942 million last year, and spam at $830 million. Cybercriminals buying and selling one another's anonymization services, malware, and traffic yielded $230 million, followed by DDoS revenue of $130 million.

The once-disorganized and ad-hoc Russian cybercrime market is evolving into a more professional and coordinated one, Group-IB says. Not only are existing cybercrime gangs working together and sharing stolen information, botnets, and other money-making fraud schemes, but Russian Mafia groups also are reaching out to these gangs to expand their portfolios. "With the imperfections in the existing laws, this has the threat of an explosive increase of attacks on the financial sector," the report says.

While new Russian laws against cybercrime have made some inroads, they are not sufficient, Group-IB says. "The cybercrime market originating from Russia costs the global economy billions of dollars every year," said Ilya Sachkov, CEO of Group-IB, in a statement. "Although the Russian government has [taken] some very positive steps, we think it needs to go further by changing existing law enforcement practices, establishing proper international cooperation and ultimately improving the number of solved computer crimes."

Among the recommendations issued by Group-IB for better cracking down on cybercrime in Russia: adding more specifics to new cybercrime laws; introducing higher penalties for computer crimes; improving procedures for investigating cybercrime; beefing up law enforcement training in cybercrime investigations; and improving coordination with other countries in cybercrime investigations.

The report also profiles five cybercriminals from Russia and countries within the former Soviet Union who were either busted or implicated in alleged cybercrimes in 2011: Vladislav Khorokhorin; Oleg Nikolayenko, alleged owner and mastermind behind the infamous Mega-D botnet; Yevgeniy Anikin, an alleged member of a cybercrime group responsible that stole $9.5 million from accounts of the WorldPay payment system; Maksim Glotov; and Andrey Sabelikov, whom Microsoft is suing for allegedly creating the Kelihos botnet malware.

Several of these cases demonstrate weaknesses in the cybercrime laws in the Eastern European region. "For example, Yevgeniy Anikin and Viktor Pleschuk, who hacked the WorldPay system of The Royal Bank of Scotland and stole $10 million from its accounts, were found guilty by a Russian court, yet only received suspended sentences, while those convicted of ordinary crimes, such as theft in the amount of up to $50,000, serve actual time in prison," the report says.

A full copy of the report is available here for download (PDF).

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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