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3 Intriguing Observations of Cybercriminals on the Dark Web

Not long ago, researchers from the Trustwave SpiderLabs team documented several storylines that emerged from their sojourns to the dark web. The goal of their probe into the underbelly of the internet was to remove the natural disconnect that occurs between cyberattack victim and their assailants.

For many, the dark web is a mysterious and untouchable place, with little being known about it beyond that it is, at least in certain parts, a hotbed of criminal activity.

But once the veil is lifted on the criminal community populating the far recesses of the internet, a much more organized picture emerges, one resembling anything but dysfunction. In fact, the makeup is so bustling and orchestrated that organizations like yours can extract enormous insights and trends by studying it, including expanding knowledge into the latest hacking techniques, malicious tools and what stolen data is being sold.

Of course, not everyone is savvy, experienced, curious or brave enough to visit the web’s nether regions. Which is why the Trustwave SpiderLabs team is always happy to take the lead – and chronicle what they find along the way.

Here are some of the stranger impressions our researchers took away from their most recent investigation.

1) Dark web dwellers don’t take kindly to malware infections (of each other).

A set of 17 forum rules our researchers stumbled upon wreaked of irony from start to finish – including an admonition not to post any personal information about fellow members – but perhaps none more than No. 3: “Don’t attempt to infect members with trojans, viruses or backdoors.” The truth is, rules like this must exist for an organized system to fully function and flourish. It’s no wonder that professional cybercrime is booming.

2) They are grooming the next generation of cybercriminals.

Like any well-developed economy, the cybercriminal underground requires tasks of all specializations, right down to the lowly duty of data entry. But to attract the right crop of people to these “entry-level” positions that require little skill, leaders must appeal to the interests of youth – and they do this by graffitiing job offers, leveraging popular communication platforms to hawk the openings and using slang. The goal is much larger than finding someone to fill a CAPTCHA solver role: Cultivate a career cybercriminal.

3) They love the gig economy for washing their dirty money.

Capitalizing on the ride- and home-sharing boom, crooks who need to launder their ill-gotten proceeds recruit drivers and hosts who never so much as need to put a car into drive or make a bed. Instead they perform fake rides or accept fake visitors, receive “payment” from the “customers,” and then the funds make their way through legitimate company systems and come out clean on the other side. Part of the money is then paid back to the criminal, and the person who played driver or host walks away with a tidy profit for minimal effort.

For a much more detailed account of the shady inner workings of the dark web, check out our three-part series here, here and here.

Dan Kaplan is senior manager of online content at Trustwave.