INSIGHT: Antisocial media? How fraudsters openly ply their trade online
- 21 March, 2016 03:59
Criminals tend to ply their trade by the cover of night. But even that is no longer the case in a social media-crazed world.
Unfazed by the potential for getting caught and prosecuted, fraudsters openly associate on the internet using that most familiar platform of all - Facebook. The great irony is that the fraudsters have perverted social media, instead rendering it antisocial.
That’s the result of the first part of a research report titled ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’, from RSA, the security division of EMC.
It’s no surprise that for years, fraudsters have used social platforms to target users with phishing attacks, distribute malware, and conduct data mining of intended victims in an attempt to gather personal information.
However, what has now emerged is that social media is a communication and collaboration channel for criminals who make little or no effort to conceal their activities.
That’s a stark finding, as conventional thinking would (and did) assume that fraudsters conceal their activities using freely available tools on the ‘deep’ (or dark) web, using anonymous browsers like Tor (The Onion Router - which conceals the location and identity of the user).
Instead, cybercrime forums flourish on Facebook and WhatsApp with illicit activity happening in plain sight. Many of the groups are open, able to be viewed by anyone, while other ‘closed’ groups have only rudimentary requirements for joining.
That confirms a reality which has always confronted the victims of cybercrime and those law enforcement agencies which attempt to police it: the global nature of online crime makes it exceedingly difficult to hold offenders to account, with multiple jurisdictions, a web of sometimes contradictory laws and the difficulty of gathering and presenting evidence conspiring against successful prosecutions.
Key findings of the research include:
- More than 500 fraud-dedicated social media groups were detected, with an estimated total of more than 220,000 members. More than 60 percent (approximately 133,000 members) were found on Facebook.
- Most of the fraud-dedicated groups are public – visible and open to all.
- The types of information openly shared media include ‘live’ financial information (credit card numbers with PII and authorisation codes), cybercrime tutorials, and commercial offerings such as malware and malware tools.
- It’s not only Facebook - other language and community-specific platforms are also being used.
- WhatsApp appears to be the newest fraud communication channel. Twitter is not preferred.