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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Tuesday June 18, 2024
Tuesday June 18, 2024

The Dark Web’s ‘LinkedIn’ lures cyber experts into criminal networks

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Cyber professionals offer illicit services on the Dark Web, turning against employers for quick cash

Cyber professionals at major firms are now offering their skills to criminals on the Dark Web. These illicit services range from creating phishing sites and malware to hacking businesses and stealing data. The Dark Web’s criminal equivalent of LinkedIn features various job listings, including web developers, software engineers, and even professional voice actors, all advertising their willingness to participate in illegal activities.

The adverts resemble those on legitimate tech job boards, but they cater to a criminal clientele. Talented cyber experts, trained by reputable companies, now turn to these dark markets, offering their services for as little as $25 per hour. One web developer with over 15 years of experience boasts about creating phishing sites and malware, offering money-back guarantees and two weeks of 24-hour support for the scams they develop. They draw the line at more heinous crimes like child pornography or murder.

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Another cyber security worker advertises their willingness to work on illegal schemes for £25 to £50 per hour, citing personal financial needs like buying toys for their kids for Christmas. These professionals once protected major businesses, including hospitals, police forces, and even the Ministry of Defence, from cyberattacks. Now, tempted by quick pay, they are willing to betray the employers who trained them.

Amanda Finch, CEO of The Chartered Institute of Information Security (CIISec), explains that organized crime has fully embraced cybercrime. Criminals no longer need to physically rob banks; instead, they recruit skilled individuals online to carry out their schemes with minimal risk. Finch emphasizes that this shift has made cybercrime more lucrative and less risky for the perpetrators.

The variety of skills on offer in these Dark Web job listings is extensive. Developers promise to create scam websites, software engineers build AI products to steal data or hack businesses, and cyber professionals expose vulnerabilities in the companies they work for. Even voice actors are involved, using their skills to impersonate loan applicants or bank employees to secure loans fraudulently.

Mark, a police officer specializing in cybercrime and Dark Web investigations, notes that these illicit adverts have grown in recent years, particularly during economic downturns. He highlights that the people posting these ads are often university-educated professionals who possess valuable skills for hackers. Their adverts are professionally written, using industry-specific terminology to attract attention.

Hacking groups are willing to pay top dollar to hire the best talent. They even invest in additional training for their recruits to enhance their skills further. The recruitment process involves vetting to ensure the individual has the claimed access and skills before executing the scam and exchanging money.

The consequences of engaging in these illegal activities can be severe. Professionals who turn to the Dark Web for quick cash often find it challenging to leave. Mark warns that criminals will exploit their skills indefinitely, and if legal authorities close in, these criminals will not hesitate to betray their collaborators to save themselves.

Research by Gartner indicates that 25 per cent of security leaders will leave the industry by 2025 due to work-related stress. Finch attributes this to companies’ lack of understanding and inadequate support for cybersecurity. Overworked and underfunded cyber teams are more susceptible to burnout, making them vulnerable to turning to crime.

Professionals tempted by the allure of easy money must understand the risks involved. Working for criminals can lead to severe consequences, including betrayal by those who employed them. The Dark Web may offer quick cash, but it traps individuals in a dangerous and difficult-to-escape cycle of crime.

Analysis:

The rise of cyber professionals turning to the Dark Web for criminal opportunities reflects broader issues within the cybersecurity industry and society at large.

Politically, this trend underscores the need for stronger cybersecurity policies and better support for cybersecurity professionals. Governments must address the systemic issues causing stress and burnout among cyber workers, ensuring they receive adequate resources and support.

Sociologically, the phenomenon highlights the impact of economic downturns on professional behaviour. Financial pressures drive individuals to seek alternative income sources, even if it means engaging in illegal activities. This trend also points to growing moral flexibility in the workforce, where the line between right and wrong becomes blurred under financial strain.

Economically, the Dark Web’s ‘LinkedIn’ reveals the lucrative nature of cybercrime. Criminals can offer competitive pay, making it an attractive option for skilled professionals facing economic hardships. This underscores the need for economic stability and support for professionals to prevent them from turning to crime.

From a gender perspective, the cybersecurity field, like many others, is not immune to the gendered impacts of economic pressures. Women in cybersecurity, already underrepresented, may face additional challenges, including workplace stress and the temptation of illicit opportunities, due to societal expectations and financial responsibilities.

Race and minority perspectives also play a role. Marginalized groups, who may face systemic barriers in the job market, might be more susceptible to turning to the Dark Web for income. Ensuring equal opportunities and support for these groups within the cybersecurity industry is crucial.

The ethical implications are significant. The actions of these cyber professionals not only harm their former employers but also undermine the integrity of the cybersecurity industry. It raises questions about corporate responsibility and the importance of fostering ethical behaviour within the workforce.

In conclusion, the rise of cyber professionals offering their services on the Dark Web is a multifaceted issue that requires a comprehensive response. Addressing the root causes, including economic pressures, workplace stress, and lack of support, is essential to curb this growing trend and protect the integrity of the cybersecurity industry.

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