Is Cyber Crime Boring? Maybe The Characterization Masks a Painful Consequence?

June 1, 2020

DarkCyber read “Career Choice Tip: Cybercrime is Mostly Boring.” The article is clear. The experts cited are thorough and thoughtful. Practicing cyber crime is similar to what engineers, developers, and programmers do in the course of their work for firms worldwide. Much of that work is boring, filled with management friction, and repetitive.

The article states:

the academics stress that the romantic notions of those involved in cybercrime ignore the often mundane, rote aspects of the work that needs to be done to support online illicit economies. The researchers concluded that for many people involved, cybercrime amounts to little more than a boring office job sustaining the infrastructure on which these global markets rely, work that is little different in character from the activity of legitimate system administrators.

Exactly.

The paper is quoted in the article as explaining:

We find that as cybercrime has developed into industrialized illicit economies, so too have a range of tedious supportive forms of labor proliferated, much as in mainstream industrialized economies. We argue that cybercrime economies in advanced states of growth have begun to create their own tedious, low-fulfillment jobs, becoming less about charismatic transgression and deviant identity, and more about stability and the management and diffusion of risk. Those who take part in them, the research literature suggests, may well be initially attracted by exciting media portrayals of hackers and technological deviance.”

The DarkCyber study team discussed the Cambridge research summary and formulated some observations:

  1. Boring means that cyber crime will be automated. Automated processes will be tuned to be more efficient. Greater efficiency translates to the benefit the cyber criminals seek. Thus, the forward momentum of boring cyber crime is an increase in the volume and velocity of attacks.
  2. Certain criminal elements are hiring out of work or disgruntled technologist from mainstream companies, including high-profile Silicon Valley companies. Our research identified one criminal organization paying 90,000 euros per month and offering benefits to contract workers with specialized skills. The economic pressures translates to a talent pool available to certain criminal orchestrators. More talent feeds the engineering resources available to cyber crime constructs. DarkCyber believes a “Google effect” is beginning, just in the cyber crime market space.
  3. Law enforcement, government agencies, and some providers of specialized services to law enforcement and intelligence entities will be unable to hire at the rate criminal constructs hire. Asymmetry will increase with bad actors having an opportunity to outpace enforcement and detection activities.

Net net: The task facing law enforcement, security, and intelligence professionals is becoming more difficult. Cyber crime may be boring, but boring tasks fuel innovation. With access to talent and cash, there is a widening chasm. Talking about boring does not make clear the internal forces pushing cyber crime forward.

Stephen E Arnold, June 1, 2020

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