The dark net is astounding in its rapid growth and adoption. In my ongoing research work around underground sites, I continue to be amazed at just how much traditional web-based info is making its way to the dark net. As an example, in the last few research sessions, I have noticed several sites archiving educational white papers, economic analyses and more traditional business data – across a variety of languages. I am also starting to see changes in the tide of criminal-related data and “black market” data, in that the density of that data has begun to get displaced, in my opinion, by more traditional forms of data, discourse and commercialization.
It is not quite to the level of even the early world wide web, but it is clearly headed in a direction where the criminal element, underground markets and other forms of illicit data are being forced to share the dark net with significantly more commercial and social-centric data. Or at least, it feels that way to me. I certainly don’t have hard metrics to back it up, but it feels that way as I am working and moving through the dark net in my research.
There is still a ways to go, before .onion sites are paved and turned into consumer malls – but that horizon seems closer now than ever before. Let me know what you think on Twitter (@lbhuston).
MSI is proud to announce that a Rand report that we contributed to is now available. The report details the underground economy and provides insights into the operation, intelligence and flow of the underground markets.
You can download a free copy of the report here.
We are happy to support research projects such as these and they represent yet another way that MSI fulfills our promise to give back to the security community. If you have questions about this project or about our other contributions, please reach out to me on Twitter (@lbhuston).
I read two interesting articles today that reinforced how the underground economy associated with cyber-crime is still growing. The first, an article from Breech Security, talked about their analysis of web-hacking from 2007. Not surprisingly, they found that the majority of web hacking incidents they worked last year were geared towards theft of confidential information.
This has been true for the majority of incident response cases MSI has worked for a number of years now. The majority are aimed at gaining access to the underlying database structures and other corporate data stores of the organization. Clearly, the target is usually client identity information, credit card info or the like.
Then, I also read on darknet this morning that Finjin is saying they have been observing a group that has released a small P2P application for trading/sale of compromised FTP accounts and other credentials. Often, MSI has observed trading and sale of such information on IRC and underground mailing lists/web sites. Prices for the information are pretty affordable, but attackers with a mass amount of the data can make very good incomes from the sale. Often, the information is sold to multiple buyers – making the attacker even more money from their efforts.
Underground economies have been around since the dawn of capitalism. They exist for almost every type of contraband and law enforcement is usually quite unsuccessful at stamping them out. Obviously, they have now become more common around cyber-crime and these events that have “bubbled to the surface” are only glimpses of the real markets.
It is critical that information security teams understand these motivations and the way attackers think, target victims and operate. Without this understanding, they are not likely to succeed in defending their organizations from the modern attacker. If your organization still spends a great deal of time worrying about web page defacements and malware infections or if your security team is primarily focused around being “net cops”, it is pretty likely that they will miss the real threat from today’s cyber-criminals and tomorrow’s versions of organized crime.