The Business of Cybercrime
More Amazon than mafia
Cybercrime and hacking are plagued by pop culture stereotypes – from the hacker in a hoodie to the cascading green text reminiscent of The Matrix.
For law enforcement agencies tasked with combatting cybercrime and tracking down the criminals responsible for these tropes, while captivating, are unhelpful in understanding and eliminating them.
"We found that the hacking marketplace is highly competitive and to succeed these groups have to work hard to attract clients."
New research from Edith Cowan University is overturning the idea that online organised crime groups are just like traditional mafia in the internet age.
Dr Roberto Musotto from ECU's School of Business and Law and the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre said his research is changing the way law enforcement are approaching organised crime groups online.
"Our research showed that groups selling so called 'crimeware' or hacking-as-a-service online have an organisational structure just like an Amazon store, not an online Cosa Nostra," he said.
"We found that the online hacking marketplace is highly competitive and to succeed these groups have to work hard to attract clients and build up their criminal business."
"They’re using sophisticated marketing to engage customers as well as low-cost trial accounts and even tech support you might find if you were signing up for a new internet service provider."
"The big difference is the service they’re providing is used almost exclusively for criminal acts."
These tactics more closely resemble a business practice playbook than a classic mafia operation.
A growing concern online
Dr Musotto and his colleague from the University of Leeds analysed data on an online organised crime group accused of selling access to an IP stressor that enabled users to launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
In this kind of cyber-attack, the targeted website is bombarded with numerous log-on attempts all at once. This clogs up the site’s traffic and leads to all users being denied access, effectively causing the site to crash.
"In this kind of cyber-attack, the targeted website is bombarded with numerous log-on attempts all at once"
Tech firm Cisco last year predicted the total number of DDoS attacks would double by 2023, while the scope and intensity of attacks has increased massively.
Those increases have gone hand-in-hand with innovative new ways for cybercriminals to deploy attacks against organisations. Reports have emerged of cybercriminals demanding payment in bitcoin or other cryptocurrency in exchange for not disrupting businesses online platforms.
More Amazon than Mafia: analysing a DDoS stresser service as organised cybercrime by R. Musotto and D. Wall by R. Musotto and D. Wall is published in Trends in Organized Crime.