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Cybercrime: Much more organised

Taylor Armerding | June 24, 2015
Cybercrime offers the potential for immense profits. So it is no surprise that the digital "mob" has moved into the space. According to some experts, there is no such thing as “disorganised cybercrime” any more

Jim Anderson, president of Americas for BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, agrees that the same tools are available to all.

"There are websites where a new thief can essentially buy a 'starter kit' that includes malicious code that rookies can use in their first attempts at criminal behavior," he said.

But he also believes that today there is, "no disorganized digital crime. Because of the way criminals have organized, the threat landscape is ever evolving and more importantly, ever growing," he said.

He added that part of that evolution is information sharing. "The rate at which information is shared among the criminal element means that an attack at, for example, one bank, could be replicated by multiple bad actors at financial institutions globally within moments," he said.

Of course, cybercrime has various layers -- not all of it is private enterprise. Nation states are generally more interested in political and economic espionage than simply making money -- stealing state secrets, intellectual property and the personal information of government employees -- the kind of thing seen in the recent hack of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which reportedly compromised the information of up to 14 million current and former federal employees. Chinese hackers are the prime suspects.

But for organized crime gangs focused on money, there is little mystery about why they are drawn to cyber -- that's where the money is.

"They recognize it's much easier and less dangerous than traditional criminal pursuits, such as drug trafficking and prostitution," said Phil Neray, vice president of Enterprise Security Strategy at Veracode.

And that points to ways that today's digital mobsters are different from those portrayed in the "Godfather" movies.

Lindner said there is still the potential for violence. "Organized criminals kill off their enemies because they want to make more money," he said. "If someone gets in their way, bad things will happen."

But, those bad things tend to be like the massive DDoS attack nearly a decade ago on Blue Security, a software maker that was going to "out" a number of spammers.

A "hit" in that case meant nobody died in a hail of bullets. "It's a different level of taking them out," Lindner said.

He added that another difference is that the traditional mob generally needed to co-opt law enforcement to operate freely. "That was local. This is not local," he said. "In the internet world, there is no fear of law enforcement."

Still, Anderson warns that just because criminal gangs aren't killing their competitors or demanding "rent" from local businesses doesn't mean their activities won't result in violence.

"There are real concerns about where money is going and what it is funding," he said. "Various anti-money-laundering statutes for financial institutions are in place to limit the income of terrorist groups."


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