New academic research into the cyber crime economy has revealed that cyber gangs are now starting to copy the platform capitalism models of successful businesses like Uber and Amazon. Just like these legitimate companies, cyber criminals use data as the principal commodity they trade in, acquiring data about individuals and then selling it on to other criminal gangs for use in identity theft based fraud.
According to the research, conducted by Dr Mike McGuire from the University of Surrey, based on direct interviews with over 100 cyber criminals, the crime economy has now become a self sustaining system with an estimated annual global revenue of $1.5 trillion.
This global revenue includes $860 billion from illicit online markets, $500 billion from the theft of trade secrets and IP, $160 billion from data trading, $1.6 billion from Crimeware-as-a-Service and $1 billion from ransomware.
The report notes that, as in the legitimate economy, criminal enterprises are going through digital transformation and are diversifying, into new areas of crime. They are reinvesting 20% of their revenues ($300 billion) into future cybercrime and other criminal activity such as human trafficking and drug distribution.
The report recommends a change of approach by cyber security professionals, including recognition that personal data should be treated as a valuable commodity, more like a traditional currency. Whilst the price that a cyber criminal can sell a stolen identity for could be as low as $20, the cost to an individual of having their identity stolen has been valued at closer to $5,000.
If companies begin to place a proper value on the personal data of their employees, just like technology companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon do, they are much more likely to take appropriate action to protect that data from theft. And, of course, many identities are stolen not only to defraud the employee, but also to gain access to corporate systems to steal from the company itself.
Cyber security investigation can reveal attack pathways aimed at reaching personal data
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Head of Cyber Security