In Las Vegas during this month’s McAfee FOCUS 09 conference, I listened to various speakers in the Threats and Trends track. They explained how cybercrime was now managed by individuals driving their groups according to highly professional business models.
One of the most interesting talks was made by my colleague Dirk Kolberg, who presented on Innovative Marketing, a Ukrainian scareware company the Federal Trade Commission accused of spreading some massive “scareware” schemes–alarming messages falsely claimed that scans had detected viruses, spyware, and illegal pornography on consumers’ computers. The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland approved the FTC’s request to call a halt to the company’s activities and freeze the assets of those behind the scams.
Explaining that Innovative has more than 600 employees in real offices, subsidiaries in various countries such as India, Poland, Canada, United States, and Argentina and complete with customer-calling centers, Dirk said the company received approximately 4.5 million order IDs in 11 months or, in other words, US$180 million dollars (at $40 each). Technical support, a professional website, and LinkedIn profiles for the company and its staff provided what appears to be a legitimate front. Following its legal troubles, it is now a defunct company; yet many employees have joined a new entity that has the same production targets.
The same day, my colleague Dmitri Alperovitch gave an overview of the Eastern European countries’ cybercrime landscape. Like Dirk, Dmitri demonstrated the high level of organization within the cybercrime industry. The first example came from Romania, where the Bogdan PaÃ¯u carding gang operated. Members were caught in the act and arrested in 2006 after they emptied the accounts of several hundred citizens of Brazil, Spain, Italy, and the United States.
Well organized and equipped with sophisticated cloning devices, they received the personal data from Russian accomplices. Counterfeiters used the money diverted from ATMs on striptease entertainment clubs, luxury cars, luxury hotel accommodation, food, and fine drinks.
In the second part of his talk, Dmitri presented an events timeline of the Eastern European carding underground:
He discussed CarderPlanet, and its hierarchical structure set up like a mafia (and the source for the following image: NICSA-FBI-SSA, Michael J. McKeown )
CarderPlanet was shut down in 2004 and the FTC complaint for the injunction against IMU dates from December 2008, but cybercrime gangs will always rise from their ashes.
Around Kyiv, the making of fake antivirus software still flourishes. The latest statistics on rogue antivirus–presented by Craig Schmugar and Anthony Bettini in their session–are unequivocal.
The last piece of news on carding and phishing demonstrates the size and the worldwide organization of the actual cybercrime gangs.
- In France, about 70 individuals were recently indicted. They were “mules” who, via Western Union, sent the money they embezzled to the Ukraine and Russia.
- In France, a gang of Slovakian gangsters from Britain was under investigation after bank cards were used to take more than $480,000 from cash machines in northern France. Up to 50 Eastern Europeans descended on Calais from Dover early on September 11 before emptying cash points across the region. 34 were arrested, all using Barclays Bank cards. According to the police in Lille, a “Mafia-style” mastermind had used dozens of mules to empty machines at a range of banks.
- This month in the United States, the FBI announced the results of the Operation Phish Phry. After a two-year investigation, more than 50 individuals in California, Nevada, and North Carolina and nearly 50 Egyptian citizens have been charged with crimes including computer fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identify theft. The gang victimized hundreds and possibly thousands of account holders by stealing their financial information and using it to transfer about $1.5 million to bogus accounts they controlled. Here, too, the group was very organized, as demonstrated by a chart created with i2 Analyst’s Notebook by Gary Warner.
All these examples support the position that Dave DeWalt discussed during Wednesday’s general session: “The bad guys are getting organized. This is not the hacker in your basement. We’re talking about organized crime, organized terrorism, and organized warfare,”Â DeWalt said. Identity theft, phishing, or fake alerts go through the Net. Faced with these threats, large organizations deploy solutions from multiple vendors because the truth is that no single vendor can meet all of their security and compliance needs. But today’s security threats and economic challenges demand that products from multiple vendors interoperate to provide better protection, reduce operational costs, and streamline the compliance lifecycle. This is why at FOCUS 09Â DeWalt also reaffirmed his support of the McAfee Security Innovation Alliance (SIA). He described it as the “NATO” of security software, a call for a universal architecture for security standards and confirmed that McAfeeÂ is focused on improving partnerships and establishing an extended broader community through this innovative technology-partnering program.