Costs of tools and activities in the Russian cybercriminal underground

A new Trend Micro research paper describes a broad offering of tools and activities that can be bought and sold on underground forum shopping sites. It examines the prices charged for various types of services, while also providing examples of information shared among cybercriminals.

In examining two dozen basic and fundamental tools and technologies that cybercriminals create and use to enhance their business, researchers also assess the top-ten ranked malicious activities and services:

1. Programming services and software sales
2. Hacking services
3. Dedicated server sales and hosting
4. Spam, call and SMS flooding services
5. Download sales
6. Denial-of-service-attack services
7. Traffic sales
8. File encryption services
9. Trojan sales
10. Exploit writing services and sales.

Snapshots of pricing are gleaned from underground forums helping paint a comprehensive picture of the Russian underground economy. In fact the investment to become a cybercriminal is minimal. Here are a few examples of what one could get for approximately US$50 in the cybercriminal bazaar.

  • A stub crytpter with various add-ons goes for US$30 – 80. File crypting is primarily employed to conceal infected files or malware from legitimate security software.
  • VPN services for 3 months are offered at US$50-55. The VPN service preserves anonymity, while allowing hackers to access websites.
  • A 1-day denial-of-service attack goes for US$30-70. These attacks aim to paralyze websites or computers.
  • Installation of ZeuS in your host: US$35. Installation of ZeuS in my host: US$40. ZeuS is one of the most infamous botnet toolkits, for making botnets that remotely steal personal information for victims’ computers.
  • Trojan backdoor source code for sale: US$50. A Trojan malware masquerades as a legitimate computer program or application, in order to steal user data.

The report reveals that generally much higher prices (more than US$50) are being paid for sophisticated technology, tools and services.

Cybercriminals can even test their threat against solutions already being offered by security companies. In conclusion, the research paper notes that “the Russian shadow economy is an economy of scale, one that is service oriented and that has become a kleptocracy wherein crony capitalism has obtained a new lease on life in cyberspace.”

The complete report is available in PDF format here.

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