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How Does the Business of Cybercrime Work?

The organizational features commonly found in the online criminalCriminal A criminal is any person who through a decision or act engages in a crime. This can be complicated, as many people break laws unknowingly, however, in our context, it is a person who makes a decision to engage in unlawful acts or to place themselves with others who do this. A criminal always has the ability to decide not to break the law, or if they initially engage in crime to stop doing it, but instead continues. underground look a lot like traditional business structures, with organizational heads, line managers, and front-line staff.

Provided courtesy of the Council on Foreign Relations »

By: Jonathan Lusthaus – Director of the Human Cybercriminal Project at the University of Oxford, and the author of Industry of Anonymity: Inside the Business of Cybercrime.

Cybercrime Is A Shadowy World!

One only needs to do an image search on Google to find the stereotype of the hooded, faceless attacker.

But as a sociologist, my primary interest is people. I began studying cybercrime because I was interested in this hidden world and the unseen faces within it. I wanted to peel back the hoodie. I spent seven years traveling around the globe, from Russia and Ukraine, to Romania, China, Nigeria, Brazil, and the United States. Over this time, I interviewed almost 250 law enforcement agents, security professionals and former cybercriminals about the business.

What this research taught me was that cybercriminals are not all that mysterious. While the tools have changed, the underlying crime types remain the same: theft, fraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim., extortion and so on—what Peter Grabosky called “old wine in new bottles”.

The organizational features commonly found in the underground also look a lot like traditional business structures. One of the most striking aspects of modern day cybercrime is how specialized it has become. Few actors are skilled across every aspect of the business. It makes greater economic sense to invest in a particular “trade” and rely on others to provide specialist fu