Security researchers Fyodor Yarochkin and “The Grugq” spent the past few months examining Russian hacker forums and found a number of users were actually merely tech geeks and not hardened criminals.
“It is an ongoing project that we started about 18 months ago,” Grugq told eWEEK. “Originally it started when Fyodor investigated some service offerings from Russian hacker forums for a specific project that I was working on. It turned out to be extremely interesting and amusing, so we discussed doing more long-term monitoring on the forums. It grew from there into what is now a continuous monitoring program.”
Rather than established criminal enterprises, much of the sales and purchases of services on the forums are actually “petty criminal activity, or crimes of opportunity,” according to the researchers.
“Basically, from what we’ve seen on the forums much of what goes on with the sales of services is much more petty criminal activity, or crimes of opportunity,” Grugq said. “Often poor students who like to hack for fun will sell access to a server they’ve owned. Many don’t even realize that this is an illegal activity. This sale will be for $20 or $30, which is a lot of money for a poor student in Russia, but for a hardened criminal mastermind bent on destroying Western civilization“”not so much.”
The researchers also pointed to the low cost of purchasing attacks, such as DDoS attacks, which are not set at a level to attract serious criminals.
“In terms of percentage, there’d be two to three guys working on stuff professionally, versus 10 to 20 hobbyists,” Yarochkin said. “Most of the activity is essentially petty criminal activity where guys are trying to make a little extra cash on the side. You can think of it as a self-organizing hierarchical system with needs and people able to provide goods and services to satisfy the needs.”