Cyber Crime: The Growing Underground Market

Technology has brought about many positive effects to better our personal lives and grow our businesses. On the flip side, these same technology advances have also provided individuals with malicious intent a very powerful means to create a different type of market – the Cyber Crime Underground Market.

Gone are the days where technology is merely a device, equipment or a tool used by individuals, organizations and businesses. Today, technology has become a critical and crucial part of our personal lives and businesses. From the corners of our kitchen to every cubicle in our offices, one can no longer function without technology. Companies who did not adapt to the fast-growing sophistication of technology became extinct and people who refused to embrace technology into their lives became isolated. Technology has changed our lives. It made us feel closer to our loved ones who are miles away from us and it provided organizations the means to catapult their top-line to the highest possible level. Technology has practically invaded our homes, our offices, our lives.

This same technology has also provided the pedophiles and perverts the means to commit their crimes in an easy, fast, and untraceable manner. Unscrupulous individuals whom we used to brand as criminals have found a very effective tool to commit crimes in a clandestine and anonymous way. Thus, we now call them cybercriminals. A new term added to a simple word, caused a paradigm shift in dealing with technology-related crimes.

Growing underground market

While we are aware of the growing number of cyber crime cases, from child pornography, hacktivism, to website defacements and data theft from computer systems, a more disturbing issue is what we often fail to see, the business side of cyber crime in the underground market. In 2011, the GIB CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team) of Russia estimated the global cyber crime market to be US$12.5 billion. Services that can be availed include the following: online fraud, spam service, Cyber Crime to Cyber Crime market (C2C), and DDoS attack service. Adding to these services are online pornography, online child abuse, identity theft, credit card fraud and cyber assassination. To commit cyber crime, your imagination is the only limitation.

In the Philippines, the opportunity to make easy money through cyberspace illegally, attracted not only the malicious minds of the criminals, but also the poor Filipino families residing in major cities and the remote areas where internet connection is available. The instinct of survival and the easy means of earning a living pushed some Filipino parents to sell their children online. Cases of children being abused online with their parents acting as pimps are growing. Today, pedophiles and perverts can easily access a wide range of pornographic photos or pay a minimum of US$100 per hour for live streaming of children performing sexual acts. For families struggling to make ends meet, this is a huge amount of money.

To date, it is close to impossible to put a definite figure on the size and coverage of the underground market and the services it provides. Computer crime is no longer just about a hacker who has the expertise to successfully compromise a system and steal data for profit. The emergence of powerful search engines makes the cyber crime issue more challenging and complicated to prevent. The mentioned websites are considered to be an information highway where any person with or without technical knowhow can download and learn hacking techniques easily.

Adding to the list is the availability of cyber crime tools that can be purchased through the dark web. These are websites not accessible using the usual web browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer, but can only be accessed using specially crafted browsers like TOR Browsers. Interested individuals can buy and download highly sophisticated tools, newly released exploits and payloads, malwares and other malicious software useable for any type of cyber crime activities.

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