Underground economy thriving online

November 24, 2008

Underground economy thriving online Symantec has released a report detailing the inner workings of the underground economy that thrives based on selling malicious software and bank account information online. What the report shows is that the online black market is highly developed and extremely lucrative for certain software and information.

The study estimates the total value of black market services being offered online at over $275 million at asking price, with the main focus on access to financial accounts. In fact, credit card account information makes up over 30 percent of illicit requests on the Internet.

Symantec conducted the study based on monitoring IRC chat channels and forums across the Web. What it found was that the underground economy for goods and service was substantially larger and better organized than many had previously thought.

Would-be hackers can also find a host of tools available online at a relatively low price. The going rate for a keylogger is $23, a phishing scam is $10, access to a botnet goes for $225 and the tools to exploit some banking software goes for an average of $740 online.

The report also delved into the availability of pirated software on the Web. While games are the most popular programs among pirates, multimedia software such as photo editors and web development packages are the most expensive, accounting for $53 million alone between July and September of this year.

Interestingly enough, much of this activity is still coming from the United States, though American cybercriminals don’t seem to be as organized as their Eastern European counterparts. However, approximately 41 percent of the servers hosting illegal activity are located in the US.

The most stunning figure released in the report is the total economic impact of the software and information about bank assets for sale on the Internet. The combined total of illicit software and bank assets could has a potential value of over $7 billion being drained from the global economy.

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