Computer Crime Research Center


Fighting the agents of organized cybercrime

Date: May 09, 2008
Source: Computer Crime Research Center
By: Cherise Fong

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Back in the good old days of the Internet, the hacker was a teenager motivated by high-tech pranks and bragging rights. Today, the online thief could be anyone with 'Net access after a quick buck.

"Hacking has escalated from a destructive nature to financial gain through phishing, targeting people for bank account details, and siphoning accounts from there," says Derek Manky, security researcher at Fortinet.

"It's a very sophisticated ecosystem, with organizations and services for hire," he continues.

"There's a lot of money floating around, a lot of people involved. Once the infrastructure and networks are in place, you start building that foundation, which can be further leveraged and taken to next level: denial of services, cyber warfare, espionage."

In the Web 2.0 world of ubiquitous, seamless, horizontal communication, information wants to be free. But just as easily as it can be uploaded, downloaded and shared, it can be accessed and exploited by individuals with a different agenda.

While online communities in particular continue to grow through friendly social networking sites, underground cybercrime syndicates continue to thrive on these on-screen relationships based on sharing and trust.

And with social engineering the hottest commodity on the phishing market, it's a question of knowing what literally what makes people click.

Most-wanted list

Topping the most-wanted list, an organization dubbed Rock Phish is reputedly responsible for more than half of all phishing sites worldwide. In addition to its proven technical prowess, part of its success can be attributed to baited hooks written in perfect English -- as well as French, German and Dutch -- with always impeccable counterfeit design of brand logos and styles.

After yesteryear's scams for Nigerian bank transfers, today's spam 2.0 and its associated army of malware ("malicious software" such as viruses, worms, Trojans and keystroke loggers) are much less obvious.

On the dark side of the Internet, white-collar cybercrime lords operate specialized Internet Relay Chats and Web forums, laundering the money through mules in front companies.

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