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Twenty-Four Seven Security

Peter Schooff

Cybercrime Gets Organized

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Found an interesting article at PC World about Thomas J. Holt, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at UNC (go Heels!), where for the past year they’ve been gathering information on the burgeoning online black market for malware and cyberthieves.

To locate the sites where cybercriminals bought and sold their wares, Holt had no inside criminal contacts to assist him, so he started just like anybody would, with a search on Google. After finding several sites that had cut-and-pasted postings from other sites, also called rippers, this lead him to the real black market sites where malware gets reviewed and sellers get ranked.

Online reviews varied from “The best program in its class I have ever seen!" to "One of the most powerful products on the market." Still another reads, "Works well... to find a new attacker." As reported by UNC Research, a typical transaction can cost anywhere from $100 dollars to more than $3,000.

These underground forums also feature product-testing reports, which detail if an illicit application does what it says it can. Certain sites even offer tech support and product updates, and in some cases feature escrow services, meaning they’ll act as a third party and hold onto the transaction money until both sides are satisfied with the deal.

Much like eBay, these sites allow sellers to garner a reputation until they can establish themselves as a “verified seller.? To maintain their anonymity, sellers use handles like Corpse or Cr4sh, and when one site shuts down, the reputations can often transfer to a new site. Thus, buyers can distinguish between who are the good/bad guys versus the bad/bad guys.

The team from UNC found sites in Vietnamese, Spanish, English, and Chinese, but the most common language was Russian. The many different languages made it difficult to find and shut down the sites, and while Holt says he does share his results with law enforcement, and has led to some sites getting busted up, it hardly made a dent in the online black market.

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Peter Schooff's blog is a daily look at what's going on in the world of computer security with an emphasis on how it affects businesses.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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