Services from the Underground Market: One Stop Shop for New Identities

Today’s cyber criminals have a wide variety of tools and services for committing both online and physical crimes. Most of the threats we hear about today are malware, phishing and targeted attacks; however, identity theft and identity forgery are regaining momentum due to new offerings from multiple underground vendors.

Don’t Call It a Comeback

While it is a crime on its own, tampering with official documents to create or change an identity can be an important part of a broader cyber crime scheme. Some criminals use fake documents to perform new account fraud (NAF), while others manipulate bank statements, utility bills and credit card scans to enroll in services that require official documents for registration. While the latter is mostly used to access online betting and gambling sites, fake documents (including passports, ID cards and driver’s licenses) allow a fraudster to walk into a physical bank branch, show ample proof of identity and open a new account under someone else’s name.

Once the account is open, the fraudster can request that all his bills (for services registered under false identities) be charged to that account. These could include credit card bills, utility bills and any other form of payment the fraudster wishes. The fraudster will never actually pay these bills, and the debt will start growing. When the bank or one of the companies investigates the issue, they will end up talking to the person whose identity was used and not the fraudster.

Cyber Crime On Demand

The increase of identity services being offered in the underground has made NAF an easier attack vector than ever. Today’s criminal identity services are so easy to access and use that the websites themselves have become an “on demand” instant identity one-stop shop. All a fraudster needs to do is choose the document he wishes to forge — be it a U.S. passport, a European driver’s license, a credit card statement or another type of official document — provide the website with the picture and credentials he wishes to forge and pay using an anonymous payment service or a virtual currency. Within mere seconds, the documents will be created.

Does this sound familiar? It is the same basic idea behind variable data printing (VDP), an approach often used to create custom calendars and gift cards. For those fraudsters who want more than just a document, some underground forum members offer “the complete package”: New or stolen identity documents, including a physical ATM card, passport, online credentials, credit card numbers and more, shipped to the customer’s house for as low as $350.

To learn more about these types of cyber underground activities, as well as other techniques and tools today’s cyber criminals use to target institutions and end users, please view our on-demand webinar on the latest offerings from the criminal underground.

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Etay Maor

Senior Fraud Prevention Strategist, IBM Security

Etay is a senior fraud prevention strategist at Trusteer, an IBM company, where he leads fraud fighting and threat awareness projects. A security evangelist, Etay regularly presents at industry events and academic master classes as well as volunteer for educational security awareness programs.