The Dark Web Marketplace: A Shopping Center for Attackers

Security threats are constantly evolving, and cybercriminals are quick to adopt new technologies. They even developed their own sophisticated ecosystem.

Cybercrime-as-a-service (CaaS) and other tools of the trade are available in a growing Dark Web marketplace that caters to attackers, both amateur and professional. Like traditional criminal underworlds, the Dark Web has its own shadowy networks, its own culture of occasional trust and pervasive suspicion, and its own criminal argot.

Talk Like a Cybercriminal

As InfoWorld reported, the very language of the Dark Web marketplace offers insights into its culture, organization and internal challenges. As in traditional underworlds, some of this cybercrime jargon borrows directly from the language of law enforcement. A zero-day exploit, for example, attacks a vulnerability that the security community has yet to detect.

Some terms draw from the language of physical security, but with altered meanings. FUD, for instance, which to security specialists represents the fear, uncertainty and doubt that cybercriminals seek to spread, means “fully undetectable” within the Dark Web marketplace.

Other terms are unique to the cybercrime underworld. Crypters, which encrypt malware so that it can slip past antivirus software while binders infect legitimate software with a malicious cargo, are tools specifically designed for cybercriminal purposes. And because there is seldom honor among thieves, entities known as rippers frequently scam or steal from other fraudsters without providing anything useful in return.

Hierarchies of Trust and Mistrust

The Dark Web marketplace is made up of countless websites and forums. Some are available via the open web, while others are reachable only through encrypted services such as Tor. A few sites offer physical contraband, such as weapons and fake passports, in addition to cybercrime tools.

These sites also form a sort of hierarchy. Some are open to anyone who wants to register. Most of the malware available at these low-end outlets, however, is of correspondingly low quality. As InfoWorld put it, “There are a great number of amateur criminals trying to increase their profile, but selling very low quality tools.”

At the other end of the Dark Web marketplace spectrum, an upscale Russian-language forum offers quality merchandise but jealously protects itself with an invitation-only reputation system for vendors. In a world of rippers and nosy cyber cops, the most sophisticated underworld operators are duly cautious about their own cybersecurity.

Stay Ahead of the Dark Web Marketplace

This glimpse into the cybercriminal underworld is fascinating in its own right, offering more than a whiff of a cyber thriller. But knowledge and understanding are the most important tools of cybersecurity. Specific exploits, techniques and malicious sites will come and go. Knowing the enemy, on the other hand, is the best advanced persistent defense against both today’s cyberthreats and those that will emerge tomorrow.

Read the IBM X-Force Report: Understanding the motives behind cyber attacks

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Rick Robinson is a writer and blogger, with a current 'day job' focus on the tech industry and a particular interest in the interplay of tech-driven factors and business considerations - think of the relationship between virtualization and cloud computing. Rick also blogs at Rocketpunk Manifesto on outer space, possible futures, speculative technology, and speculative literature. He has also had print articles published on aviation and military history.