Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

11/6/2017
05:03 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

It Takes a Buck to Make a Million on the Dark Web

The cost for malware tools and services can add up, but the returns from cybercrime campaigns can be enormous, says Recorded Future.

The payoff from cybercrime can be enormous for aspiring criminals everywhere, but as with many lucrative endeavors, sometimes it takes a little investment up front to get you off the ground.

Take a banking botnet operation. A decent credential-stealing Trojan can easily set you back between $3,500 and $5,000 says Recorded Future, which recently compiled a price list for malware and associated services on the Dark Web.

The Web-injects you'll need to intercept credentials for account holders of each of your target banks can cost between $100 and $1,000; bulletproof hosting another $150 to $200 per month; and payload obfuscation tools can cost up to $50.

Then there's the 50%- to 60% commission you'll need to pay from the money you steal from each victim's account if you want it professionally laundered, and another 5% to 10% to have it delivered via Bitcoin, Western Union, or other direct methods.

Such costs can add up. Still, the paybacks are enormous, says Andrei Barysevich, director of advanced collection at Recorded Future and author of the report. "We estimate the average ROI of a botnet operation to be between 400% to 600%," he says.

The returns are both direct and indirect. The main income comes from the money you steal from individual bank accounts. Then there's also the opportunity for residual income from actions like selling the login credentials at $100 to $200 a pop, or doing per-demand malware installation on the devices you have infected, Recorded Future found.

Economics like this are driving enormous interest in malware goods and services on the Dark Web. Over the years, what used to be a space dominated by a motley collection of mostly Eastern European cybercrooks has evolved into a well-organized, slick marketplace with highly specialized products and services. While estimates of the size of the cybercrime market range widely from the low hundreds of billions of dollars to over a trillion dollars, one thing everyone agrees is that it is really big.

The cybercrime underground has pretty much everything that a criminal would need, for a price, Recorded Future's report says. Like legitimate online marketplaces, goods and services can be sold or purchased pretty openly. The market is organized in a highly vertical manner with threat actors focusing on specific areas of expertise.

Script Kiddies

Often, to launch a campaign, a threat actor will need to interact with a network of service and tool providers rather than a single provider. Contrary to what one might expect, you don't need to be a jack-of-all-trades to succeed in cybercrime. The underground market is capable of supporting newbies and script kiddies just as efficiently as it can support the needs of the most sophisticated criminal groups and nation state actors.

In fact, it is rare to find individuals operating in isolation launching major criminal campaigns. Success in cybercrime really requires the ability to harness expertise and tools across multiple disciplines and sourced from different places, Recorded Future says.

The cost for these campaigns ultimately depends on what you are after and how sophisticated you want the campaign to be. If all you are looking for is login info to an online account, you can get Paypal account information for as little as $1. 

But of you want malware for launching a distributed denial-of-service attack, that can set you back $700, and the infrastructure for a spam or phishing campaign can run into the thousands.

"Historically, banking malware was and remains the most complex and costly criminal product," Barysevich says. "At the same time, various RAT and ransomware products are among the least expensive malicious software."

Interestingly, inflation doesn't appear to be much of thing in the underground market for cyber crimeware and services. Barysevich says Recorded Future doesn't have reliable metrics to say for sure how prices on the Dark Web have moved in recent years. But "based on experience, we can say a majority of the services and data types have not seen significant price fluctuations," he says.

But that could change, he says. With financial organizations and others getting generally better at protecting themselves against attacks, malware tools will need to evolve as well. This trend could make things a bit more expensive for the average cybercriminal over the next year.

One area where Barysevich expects prices to rise is malware distribution. The arrest of Russian national Pyotr Levashov earlier this year has removed one of the primary provides of spamming services across Europe and will push up malware distribution costs, he says.

Related Content:

 

Join Dark Reading LIVE for two days of practical cyber defense discussions. Learn from the industry’s most knowledgeable IT security experts. Check out the INsecurity agenda here.

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
AI Is Everywhere, but Don't Ignore the Basics
Howie Xu, Vice President of AI and Machine Learning at Zscaler,  9/10/2019
Fed Kaspersky Ban Made Permanent by New Rules
Dark Reading Staff 9/11/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-4147
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-16
IBM Sterling File Gateway 2.2.0.0 through 6.0.1.0 is vulnerable to SQL injection. A remote attacker could send specially-crafted SQL statements, which could allow the attacker to view, add, modify or delete information in the back-end database. IBM X-Force ID: 158413.
CVE-2019-5481
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-16
Double-free vulnerability in the FTP-kerberos code in cURL 7.52.0 to 7.65.3.
CVE-2019-5482
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-16
Heap buffer overflow in the TFTP protocol handler in cURL 7.19.4 to 7.65.3.
CVE-2019-15741
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-16
An issue was discovered in GitLab Omnibus 7.4 through 12.2.1. An unsafe interaction with logrotate could result in a privilege escalation
CVE-2019-16370
PUBLISHED: 2019-09-16
The PGP signing plugin in Gradle before 6.0 relies on the SHA-1 algorithm, which might allow an attacker to replace an artifact with a different one that has the same SHA-1 message digest, a related issue to CVE-2005-4900.