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Security In Context

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Black Market For Server Data Is Prevelant And Profitable

Post by Peter McCalister December 5, 2011

The economy of cyber-crime is all too real—and too enticing. No longer sequestered to dark alleys and seedy bars, data thieves have almost unlimited options to market their ill-gotten wares to potential buyers. What this means to employers and organizations: the temptation to access and “appropriate” sensitive data may be too great for some to resist.

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So just how easy is it for cybercriminals to sell data? Shockingly easy.

Although the sale of stolen information often takes place completely under- ground in secret, closed to the public credit forums, people who want to join these groups can locate them quite easily. Once vetted by forum administrators to ensure they are not from law enforcement, they are invited into the network to market and distribute their wares. According to Sue Walsh at AllSpammedUp.com in July 2009: “The personal information of at least 4 million Britons and a whopping 40 million others, most of whom are Americans, is being bought and sold online. This includes usernames and pass- words, credit card details, bank account numbers and more.”

And individuals need not even proactively seek out to divest an employer of sensitive, valuable data. Today, recruiters actively target individuals with lo- cal or specific data types, going so far as to even create job postings with such criteria as “an established relationship with local banks” as a prerequisite for crime family consideration.

The ease with which individuals can locate black market buyers of data should scare every employer who provides mid- to low-level access to any type of sensitive information. Like some bizarro-world eBay, many of these markets actually have incentive packages. Competing prices, additional services, free trials, money-back guarantees, and terms and conditions are all offered. Prices for data are qualified like any other commodity: data is priced based on the domain, if the account belongs to a real person, and how popular it is. It can depend on the number of followers, how commercial the niche is, and if the data is real or bot-generated. Prices for online banking and payment systems dependent on account verification.

To make matters worse, the cyber-crime black market, which has tradition- ally centered on distributing bank and credit-card details stolen from users around the world, has diversified its business model since 2010, and now sells a much broader range of hacked confidential information, including bank credentials, logins, passwords, fake credit cards, and more.

So, while CSOs struggle to combat an ever-evolving crime organization that morphs and changes in a nanosecond, it may be the guy in the cube next to you misusing privilege seeking to supplement his bank account who could exact the most damage to your database.

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