Risk
4/9/2008
08:33 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
Commentary
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

The Cybercrime Economy

Dot-coms daunted by the financial downturn would be well advised to look to the cybercrime economy. Cybercriminals "have very sound business models," said Joe St Sauver, manager of Internet2 Security Programs through the University of Oregon at an RSA Conference panel on Wednesday, "better than many corporate business plans I routinely see."

Dot-coms daunted by the financial downturn would be well advised to look to the cybercrime economy.

Cybercriminals "have very sound business models," said Joe St Sauver, manager of Internet2 Security Programs through the University of Oregon at an RSA Conference panel on Wednesday, "better than many corporate business plans I routinely see."The conference session, "Deconstructing the Modern Online Criminal Ecosystem," offered interesting insight into the way the Internet's black market works.

While most of the security professionals I've spoken with at RSA expressed optimism about dealing with future cyberthreats, I find it hard to see where that optimism comes from, given the economics of cybercrime as explained by the participating panelists.

One of them was Larry. He provided no last name and asked that his picture not be published, presumably for his safety. He's the chief investigator for Spamhaus.org, a site that tracks spammers. "It's almost impossible to take these [spam Web sites] down because the DNS changes every five minutes or so," he said.

"Almost impossible" is not the stuff of optimism.

As the panelists explained, a single spam message might be tied to as many as 10 separate organizations and perhaps five suppliers. Every task in the criminal economy has become a separate specialty. Some people sell e-mail lists, others sell lists of compromised IP addresses, there are sellers of credit card numbers, and those who sell access to bot nets. Then there are those who handle product fulfillment for spammers, and those who specialize in laundering money.

All this specialization insulates the network from prosecution by providing a degree of deniability. "You mean my associate was using the names I sold him for spamming?" a cornered cybercriminal might say. "I told him not to do that." The modern cybercrime economy is a franchise model that scales, explained St Sauver.

And it pays well. IronPort's Patrick Peterson observed that an IT graduate in Romania might be able to earn $400 per month legitimately, compared with several thousand per month in the cybercrime economy. And I've spoken with security researchers who suggest the difference in pay between being a security researcher and a security exploiter differs by a factor of 10 quite often.

Cybercriminals make so much money, in fact, that they employ money mules, networks of thousands of people to help them launder money by receiving and sending cash for a commission. Many of them are unaware that they're facilitating crime. And many of them end up being scammed.

A typical scam: They're wired money and asked to send out a lesser amount via Western Union. Only later do they learn that wire transfers can be reversed, whereas Western Union money transfers are irrevocable.

And a final factoid from the session: Lawrence Baldwin, chief forensics officer with My Net Watchman, said that in the past few months he was aware of about 30 data breaches at companies and only two have been publicly reported.

The trend, Baldwin said, was to go after midsize organizations because the big ones have too much security and individuals don't have enough valuable data. Sounds like the recent Hannaford breach to me.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7421
Published: 2015-03-02
The Crypto API in the Linux kernel before 3.18.5 allows local users to load arbitrary kernel modules via a bind system call for an AF_ALG socket with a module name in the salg_name field, a different vulnerability than CVE-2014-9644.

CVE-2014-8160
Published: 2015-03-02
net/netfilter/nf_conntrack_proto_generic.c in the Linux kernel before 3.18 generates incorrect conntrack entries during handling of certain iptables rule sets for the SCTP, DCCP, GRE, and UDP-Lite protocols, which allows remote attackers to bypass intended access restrictions via packets with disall...

CVE-2014-9644
Published: 2015-03-02
The Crypto API in the Linux kernel before 3.18.5 allows local users to load arbitrary kernel modules via a bind system call for an AF_ALG socket with a parenthesized module template expression in the salg_name field, as demonstrated by the vfat(aes) expression, a different vulnerability than CVE-201...

CVE-2015-0239
Published: 2015-03-02
The em_sysenter function in arch/x86/kvm/emulate.c in the Linux kernel before 3.18.5, when the guest OS lacks SYSENTER MSR initialization, allows guest OS users to gain guest OS privileges or cause a denial of service (guest OS crash) by triggering use of a 16-bit code segment for emulation of a SYS...

CVE-2014-8921
Published: 2015-03-01
The IBM Notes Traveler Companion application 1.0 and 1.1 before 201411010515 for Window Phone, as distributed in IBM Notes Traveler 9.0.1, does not properly restrict the number of executions of the automatic configuration option, which makes it easier for remote attackers to capture credentials by c...

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
How can security professionals better engage with their peers, both in person and online? In this Dark Reading Radio show, we will talk to leaders at some of the security industry’s professional organizations about how security pros can get more involved – with their colleagues in the same industry, with their peers in other industries, and with the IT security community as a whole.