Cybercrime economy 'is booming'

The online underground economy that has matured into an efficient, global marketplace in which stolen goods and fraud-related services are regularly bought and sold, and where the estimated value of goods offered by individual traders is measured in millions of pounds.

The eighth edition of Symantec’s ‘Report on the Underground Economy’ is based on data gathered by Symantec’s Security Technology and Response (STAR) organisation, from underground economy servers between July 1 2007 and June 30 2008. The underground economy is geographically diverse, the report says, and generates revenue for cybercriminals who range from loose collections of individuals, to organised and sophisticated groups.

During this reporting period, EMEA hosted the second largest number of such servers, with 38 percent of the total; with North America being first with 45 per cent. Asia/Pacific hosted 12 per cent, and Latin America 5 per cent. The geographical locations of underground economy servers are constantly changing to evade detection.

The potential value of total advertised goods observed by Symantec was more than £184m for the reporting period. This value was determined using the advertised prices of the goods and services, and measured how much advertisers would make if they liquidated their inventory.

Credit card information is the most advertised category of goods and services on the underground economy, accounting for 31 per cent of the total. While stolen credit card numbers sell for as little as 7p to £17 per card, the average advertised stolen credit card limit observed was more than £2,650. Symantec has calculated that the potential worth of all credit cards data advertised during the reporting period was £3.53bn.
 Financial accounts, at 20 per cent of the total, were the second most common category of goods and services advertised. While stolen bank account information sells for between £6.50 and £650, according to the Report, the average advertised stolen bank account balance is nearly £26,700. Calculating the average advertised balance of a bank account together with the average price for stolen bank account numbers, the worth of the bank accounts advertised during this reporting period was £1.1bn.

During the reporting period, Symantec observed 69,130 distinct active advertisers and 44,321,095 total messages posted to underground forums. The potential value of the total advertised goods for the top 10 most active advertisers was £10.8m for credit cards and £1.3m for bank accounts. Furthermore, the potential worth of the goods advertised by the single most active advertiser identified by Symantec during the study period was £4.2 bn.

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