The rise of Mafia-like cyber crime syndicates

Gone are the days when the lone hacker operated from the dark of his room in order to gain credit and respect form his peers – the hacking business has been taken over by money-hungry, Mafia-like cyber crime syndicates in which every person has a specific role.

So says Deputy Assistant FBI Director Steven Chabinsky, who assures us that law enforcement is taking the cyber threat very seriously. “The cyber threat can be an existential threat, meaning it can challenge our country’s very existence, or significantly alter our nation’s potential,” Chabinsky said at the FOSE government IT show.

According to him, cyber crime actually pays so much that people that may have initially dabbed in it, are now quitting their day jobs and becoming “career criminals”. This fact makes it possible for them to specialize in what they do best, and it is exactly that which makes them extremely efficient.

eSecurity Planet reports that the various sting operations that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies engage in to counter this threat have yielded enough information about the inner workings of these crime organizations to make possible the development of charts that illustrate the various roles that people in the organization assume: the coder, the “techie” (that keep the servers and ISPs online), the hacker (actively searches for vulnerabilities to exploit), the money mule, the fraudster (creates social engineering schemes), and others.

“Professional” money mules are a rather new addition to the criminal enterprise. It used to be that the great majority of them were unsuspecting accomplices that got tricked into executing transfers under the impression they were doing a completely legal thing.

According to the FBI, alongside the “career” money mules, there are also “premier” mules, who usually come to the US on student or work visas and execute the instructions given to them by the gang and recruit other mules to do the same.

Chabinsky devoted the rest of the talk to law enforcement strategies to infiltrate and take down these criminal organizations. He described the sting operation that the FBI set up to put a stop to the DarkMarket online market/forum, how one of their agent actually became “part” of the gang and an administrator. Becoming a person of trust, he was able to identify some of the other members and effectually shut down the forum.

He says that the cyber gangs are starting to catch on to the increased activity from law enforcement agencies and are beginning to be more careful. In the meantime, the FBI is constantly bent on attracting and developing cybersecurity experts and has even made computer forensics a mandatory requirement for the training of their agents.

Don't miss