Juniper Networks, an industry leader in network innovation, finds the cyber black markets have a mature economy with characteristics akin to those of a thriving metropolitan city. A new global report, sponsored by Juniper Networks and conducted by the RAND Corporation, reveals several economic indicators that cyber black markets have reached unprecedented levels of maturity and growth.
While there has been significant research measuring different parts of the hacker black markets, RAND’s report, “Markets for Cybercrime Tools and Stolen Data: Hackers’ Bazaar,” examines for the first time these markets in their entirety and applies economic analysis to better understand how they function. RAND found significant levels of economic sophistication, reliability, accessibility and resilience in the products, distribution channels and actors involved in the black markets.
RAND’s report, confirmed by Juniper’s vast experience in the network security ecosystem, suggests the cyber black markets are a mature and growing multi-billion-dollar economy with a robust infrastructure and social organization. RAND found these black markets, like any other economy, react to market forces like supply and demand, and continue to evolve.
Juniper Networks likens the hacker black markets to a thriving metropolitan city with diverse communities, industries and interactions.
Click through for a closer look at the cyber black market and how it mirrors the innovation and growth of the free market, as identified by Juniper Networks and RAND Corporation.
Storefronts – Like other forms of eCommerce, many data records, exploit kits and goods are bought and sold from storefronts — which can encompass everything from instant messaging chat channels and forums to sophisticated stores. RAND found some organizations can reach 70,000 to 80,000 people, with a global footprint that brings in hundreds of millions of dollars.
Service economy – RAND found that not only goods, but criminal services are available for purchase. These tools, sold on the black market as traditional software or leased like any other managed service, can help enable the most unskilled hackers to launch fairly elaborate and advanced attacks. For example, RAND found botnets, which can be used to launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, are sold for as low as $50 for a 24-hour attack.
Hierarchal society – Much like a legitimate business, RAND found it takes connections and relationships to move up the (cyber) food chain. Getting to the top requires personal connections and those at the top are making the lion’s share of the money.
Rule of law – There is indeed honor among thieves. RAND found many parts of the cyber black market are well structured, policed and have rules like a constitution. In addition, those who scam others are regularly banned or otherwise pushed off the market.
Education and training – RAND identified widely available tools and resources on the black markets that teach criminals how to hack, including instructions for exploit kits and where to buy credit cards. This access to training has accelerated sophistication and a broader set of roles, and has helped facilitate entry into the hacker economy.
Currencies – Transactions in the cyber black markets are often conducted by means of digital currencies. Bitcoin, Pecunix, AlertPay, PPcoin, Litecoin, Feathercoin, and Bitcoin extensions such as Zerocoin are a few. RAND found many criminal sites are starting to accept only digital crypto currencies due to their anonymity and security characteristics.
Diversity – While RAND found cyber criminals from China, Latin America and Eastern Europe are typically known for quantity in malware attacks, those from Russia tend to be thought of as the leader in quality. RAND also found areas of expertise and focus among different countries. Many Vietnamese criminal groups, for example, mainly focus on eCommerce hacks. Cybercriminals from Russia, Romania, Lithuania and Ukraine focus on financial institutions. Many Chinese cyber criminals specialize in intellectual property. And U.S.-based cyber criminals primarily target U.S.-based financial systems. In addition to a diverse set of cyber criminals, RAND also found more cross-pollination between these groups than ever before.
Criminals – Even the criminal cyber black market has criminals. Known as “rippers,” these specific bad guys do not provide the goods or services they claim.