Ensuring order in the underground: Recruiting moderators on cybercriminal forums

Ensuring order in the underground: Recruiting moderators on cybercriminal forums
Photon Research Team
Read More From Photon Research Team
June 18, 2020 | 10 Min Read

While there have been many predictable consequences of the ongoing global COVID-19 (aka coronavirus) pandemic, few would have foreseen significant growth for multiple cybercriminal forums. Digital Shadows has observed forums being stretched at the seams due to their newfound pandemic popularity. In retrospect, it’s not that surprising: The coronavirus has placed enormous economic pressure on millions of people worldwide. It’s not illogical to surmise that some individuals may have turned to cybercrime to plug holes in their finances. 

In April 2020, the administrator of the English-language cybercriminal forum Nulled announced that the site was recruiting two new “trials moderators” to help the current forum team cope with Nulled’s recent growth. The administrator’s post stated that the Nulled community was “especially growing rapidly during COVID-19”, meaning that the site “require[s] additional assistance.”

Nulled forum calling for new trials moderators
Nulled forum administrator’s post calling for new trials moderators

Also in April 2020, another English-language cybercriminal forum, CrackedTO, made almost the same plea. The near-identical post from CrackedTO’s administrator cited unspecified “recent events,” rather than naming the pandemic, as a cause of the site’s growth that has necessitated hiring new trials moderators for the site.

CrackedTO forum administrator’s post calling for new trials moderators
CrackedTO forum administrator’s post calling for new trials moderators

This development is interesting in itself. It seems that cybercriminal forums—like pretty much everything else in life—will be permanently altered by the effects of COVID-19. We will watch closely to see whether Nulled and CrackedTO’s increasing prominence changes the dynamics of the constantly-shifting English-language cybercriminal scene. 

The recruitment calls got us thinking more broadly about the whole concept of hiring moderators for forums and the varying ways different sites go about recruiting team members. 

What exactly are forum moderators?

Many cybercriminal forums operate a formalized system in which rank and responsibility are distributed in a pyramid-like structure. At the top of the heap is the administrator: Usually, this is the individual responsible for founding the site. However, forums have changed hands on several occasions in recent years (most notably the change of administration on the Russian-language cybercriminal forum Exploit in 2018). Site administrators exercise varying levels of control over or involvement in the communities they manage, with some only engaging in top-level discussions and decisions and others participating in the minutiae of everyday forum life. 

Especially on the larger and more active sites, overseeing the day-to-day activity of the forum is delegated to several forum moderators, with some sites operating subdivisions within the moderation team. For example, on Exploit, four “special moderators” have particularly significant responsibilities on the site, such as acting as the arbitrator in the forum arbitration section, fulfilling a technical support role, and arranging payment for advertisements on the site. Below these four special moderators are several other moderators who each assume responsibility for one or more forum subsections. 

Forum Moderators on Exploit
List of forum moderators on Exploit

While moderators’ particular taskings vary across forums, these individuals are generally responsible for enforcing forum regulations, issuing warnings or bans to members following rule infractions, answering forum users’ questions, moving content into more appropriate subsections, deleting “empty” posts with no meaningful content, looking out for and eliminating potentially damaging scamming activity, and—in somewhere like the Arbitration section, which may have a set template for new threads—ensuring that users’ content follows the expected form. 

Moderators’ prestige, ranking, rights, and power also differ between cybercriminal forums. On the Russian-language forum Antichat, for example, moderators do not have the right to respond to user posts with insults or jokes; they must remain silent if they are offended by another forum member. In contrast, on Exploit, moderators are particularly powerful: The forum rules state that moderators’ opinions and judgments cannot be questioned and that users who do so risk a complete forum ban. On the English-language dark web community forum Dread, site rules also emphasize the sanctity of moderators’ decisions: “Do not cry to the global mods if your post gets removed by a subdread mod because you broke their rules. I can say with 100% certainty that if the post is removed by a subdread mod there is not a single case of it ever coming back because we got cried to.” Even so, moderators are not untouchable or infallible: In March 2020 a forum moderator and guarantor operating on Exploit and another Russian-language forum, XSS, was banned from both forums following unspecified financial difficulties that saw them fail to pay parties in the deals in which they were acting as guarantor.

Not all forums operate such formalized moderation structures. For example, the English-language forum Torum does have a moderation system and personnel assigned to carry out certain duties (e.g. banning users or operating the escrow service), but for a forum of its size and reputation, moderation on the site is not apparent, and plenty of rule-breaking activity remains unflagged. It is usually down to those members with a higher status and reputation on the platform to initiate procedures to get forum members banned or threads removed. The reason for Torum’s lack of emphasis on moderation is unclear. However, it may be connected to Torum’s avowed status as a non-profit site: Its owners’ fortunes are not linked with the forum’s success.  

Moderator recruitment process

The process for recruiting new moderators is relatively formalized on most cybercriminal platforms. Generally, it involves interested individuals submitting a written application detailing their experience, enthusiasm, and knowledge of the forum. Let’s take a look at how five popular cybercriminal platforms hire their site help, and what the forums expect from those who apply.

Nulled and CrackedTO’s moderator recruitment

The afore-mentioned advertisements on Nulled and CrackedTO sought “trials moderators” who would help “maintain peace on the forum and help it grow even more. According to the posts, trials moderators should be able to dedicate a “decent amount of time” daily to “assist users” and “enforce the rules.” The posts stipulated that trials moderators should spend at least 30 to 60 minutes daily solving “forum reports.”

The advertisements emphasized the need for trials moderators to be “friendly,” “approachable,” and able to use their initiative. The Nulled post listed the specific duties of the role as:

  • “Find spammers / leechers / multis”
  • “Maintain peace and order in the shoutbox”
  • “be mature and handle situations professionally”
  • “be good at making unbiased decisions”
  • “treat each member equally”

Applicants on CrackedTO would also have to “Clean the forum from malware and spam.” Interested users were directed to send applications to the forum administrator via forum private message and encouraged to upload PDF documents via We-Transfer if necessary. 

XSS’s moderator recruitment

In September 2019, the XSS administrator initiated the site’s recruitment drive for moderators, calling for “young, energetic, serious people” to help moderate the forum’s off-topic section. The post noted that the moderator role was accompanied by “a number of responsibilities and privileges,” adding “the position is serious.” Aspiring moderators should have:

  • Knowledge of the field covered by the forum section they wished to moderate
  • Enough free time to devote to the position on a long-term basis
  • A willingness to fill the forum section with interesting content to generate discussion on topics
  • The ability to speak Russian
  • Demonstrable forum experience on XSS or another site

The administrator’s post discouraged users from applying who were only interested in a green username (the distinguishing sign of a moderator on the site) or the authority they would gain from the position. Instead, they said applicants should be driven by “credibility, respect, trust, and a circle of interesting acquaintances.” Interested users were directed to leave their applications as a reply to the administrator’s post, via forum private message, or through the messaging service Jabber. Although no newly vacant forum moderator positions have been advertised since the administrator’s initial post, several users have expressed a desire to be considered for the role, most recently on 26 May 2020.

Recruitment for forum moderators on XSS
Recruitment post calling for forum moderators on XSS

Exploit’s moderator recruitment

The moderator recruitment thread on Exploit has been active since February 2005. In this thread, the Exploit administrator highlighted several aspects of the site’s recruitment process:

  • Applicants with a recent registration date on the forum and a low post count should not apply
  • Applicants should thoroughly understand the topic covered by the section they wish to moderate: “to moderate and control what you do not know is unrealistic.” 
  • The process of becoming a moderator would not be instantaneous, and appointments would only take place after consultation with other forum moderators 
  • Applicants should post regularly in the section they wished to moderate to “show users that you care about the topic of the section, that you want to participate in the life of the forum.”

In the years since the thread’s inception, the site administrator has posted several times to call for new applicants. For example, e.g., in 2018, they called for “sensible, honest, competent people” for unspecified forum sections. Interestingly, one of the administrator’s posts from 2017 revealed that, at the time, individuals were writing to them almost every day to express interest in a moderator position but that the application rarely progressed beyond the initial conversation as most users only cared about the “prestige.”

RaidForums’s moderator recruitment

A 2016 post from the administrator of the popular English-language cybercriminal forum RaidForums outlined the requirements for moderators that are still applicable for current moderator applications in the site’s dedicated section. The post noted that the site is “always looking for new staff members, but the requirements are high and few are cut out for the job,” adding that being a staff member is a “long term commitment, and not many people realize what they are getting into.”

Applicants would need to: 

  • Be willing to make a commitment of at least three hours per day for at least six months 
  • Give up any staff positions on other sites to avoid a conflict of interest
  • Have a minimum of six months’ tenure on the forum, a positive reputation count, no warnings, and a track record of following forum rules
  • Be willing to use voice communications via Skype or Discord 
RaidForums’s moderator recruitment section showing active applications
RaidForums’s moderator recruitment section showing active applications at time of writing

The importance of monitoring moderator recruitment

Cybercriminal forums, particularly in different language communities, often take varying approaches to forum organization and structure issues. Some of the central tenets of many Russian-language platforms, for instance, are not present in the English-speaking cybercriminal community – think formalized arbitration processes complete with judge, jury, and compensation. What’s interesting about the moderation system is that the five very different forums we have taken as case studies place a similarly high emphasis on the importance of the moderator role within forum life. They have all implemented a lengthy and involved process to ensure success in moderator recruitment drives. Another point to note is the elements of the recruitment advertisements that come up again and again: the importance of devoting a significant chunk of time to the role, the requirements for applicants to have a thorough knowledge of the section, and the perceived prestige associated with the role. Most also emphasized that these positions are unpaid!

Recruiting new team members and finding the right individuals to take on the moderator role is accorded great importance within the cybercriminal landscape. Starting the recruitment process would require a lot of the forum team’s time and effort. Given this, plus the significance of these appointments, a site’s decision to recruit new moderators, change its application process, or fire existing team members would not be taken lightly. Therefore, the moderator recruitment process could be viewed as a subtle bellwether for the changing circumstances of a particular forum and the cybercriminal scene more widely. Maybe opening up applications hints that something more is at play – perhaps it presages significant changes within the community. 

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Tackling Phishing: The Most Popular Phishing Techniques and What You Can Do About It

Tackling Phishing: The Most Popular Phishing Techniques and What You Can Do About It

December 12, 2018 | 8 Min Read

Overall, the infosec community has done a...
2019 Cyber Security Forecasts: Six Things on the Horizon

2019 Cyber Security Forecasts: Six Things on the Horizon

December 5, 2018 | 9 Min Read

The new year is upon us! 2018 brought us Spectre...
Threat Actors Use of Cobalt Strike: Why Defense is Offense’s Child

Threat Actors Use of Cobalt Strike: Why Defense is Offense’s Child

November 29, 2018 | 5 Min Read

I’m a big fan of the Cobalt Strike threat...
Mapping the ASD Essential 8 to the Mitre ATT&CK™ framework

Mapping the ASD Essential 8 to the Mitre ATT&CK™ framework

November 27, 2018 | 3 Min Read

Australian Signals Directorate Essential 8 The...
Black Friday and Cybercrime: Retail’s Frankenstein Monster

Black Friday and Cybercrime: Retail’s Frankenstein Monster

November 20, 2018 | 5 Min Read

With every year that passes, Black Friday seems...
Sextortion 2.0: A New Lure

Sextortion 2.0: A New Lure

November 20, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Back in September we released a blog about the...
A Look Back at the ENISA Cyber Threat Intelligence-EU Workshop 2018

A Look Back at the ENISA Cyber Threat Intelligence-EU Workshop 2018

November 13, 2018 | 5 Min Read

I recently attended the ENISA (European Union...
To Pay or Not to Pay: A Large Retailer Responds to DDoS Extortion

To Pay or Not to Pay: A Large Retailer Responds to DDoS Extortion

November 8, 2018 | 3 Min Read

Fans of The Sopranos or Goodfellas are...
81,000 Hacked Facebook Accounts for Sale: 5 Things to Know

81,000 Hacked Facebook Accounts for Sale: 5 Things to Know

November 2, 2018 | 5 Min Read

This morning, the British Broadcasting...
The Dark Web: Marketers’ Trick or Threat Intelligence Treat?

The Dark Web: Marketers’ Trick or Threat Intelligence Treat?

October 31, 2018 | 5 Min Read

At this time of the year, you can’t go anywhere...
Bank Discovers Customer Credit Card Numbers Traded Online

Bank Discovers Customer Credit Card Numbers Traded Online

October 23, 2018 | 3 Min Read

Payment card fraud costs banks and merchants...
12.5 Million Email Archives Exposed: Lowering the Barriers for BEC

12.5 Million Email Archives Exposed: Lowering the Barriers for BEC

October 18, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Digital Shadows’ latest research report, Pst!...
33,000 Accounting Inbox Credentials Exposed Online: BEC Made Easy

33,000 Accounting Inbox Credentials Exposed Online: BEC Made Easy

October 9, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Last week, I wrote about how cybercriminals are...
Business Email Compromise: When You Don’t Need to Phish

Business Email Compromise: When You Don’t Need to Phish

October 4, 2018 | 4 Min Read

According to the FBI, Business Email Compromise...
Cybercriminal Marketplaces: Olympus Has Fallen

Cybercriminal Marketplaces: Olympus Has Fallen

September 28, 2018 | 5 Min Read

The Olympus cybercriminal marketplace has been...
Thedarkoverlord Out to KickAss and Cash Out Their Data

Thedarkoverlord Out to KickAss and Cash Out Their Data

September 27, 2018 | 5 Min Read

A user claiming to be the notorious darkoverlord...
The 2017 FSB indictment and Mitre ATT&CK™

The 2017 FSB indictment and Mitre ATT&CK™

September 20, 2018 | 11 Min Read

On  February 28th, 2017 the US Department of...
Airline Discovers Trove of Frequent Flyer Accounts Compromised and Posted for Sale Online

Airline Discovers Trove of Frequent Flyer Accounts Compromised and Posted for Sale Online

September 14, 2018 | 3 Min Read

Reward program fraud has been rising in recent...
MITRE ATT&CK™ and the North Korean Regime-Backed Programmer

MITRE ATT&CK™ and the North Korean Regime-Backed Programmer

September 13, 2018 | 18 Min Read

On 6th September the US Department of Justice...
Sextortion – When Persistent Phishing Pays Off

Sextortion – When Persistent Phishing Pays Off

September 6, 2018 | 4 Min Read

You may have heard of a recent surge in...
Online Risks to Fortnite Users

Online Risks to Fortnite Users

September 4, 2018 | 5 Min Read

With an enticing array of viral dance moves,...
Online Cybercrime Courses: Back to School Season

Online Cybercrime Courses: Back to School Season

August 23, 2018 | 4 Min Read

It’s that time of year again. Summer is drawing...
Mitre ATT&CK™ and the FIN7 Indictment: Lessons for Organizations

Mitre ATT&CK™ and the FIN7 Indictment: Lessons for Organizations

August 22, 2018 | 12 Min Read

On August 1, 2018, the US Department of Justice...
Five Threats to Financial Services: Part Five, Hacktivism

Five Threats to Financial Services: Part Five, Hacktivism

August 15, 2018 | 5 Min Read

OK, so it’s not a sexy as insider threats,...
Five Threats to Financial Services: Part Four, Payment Card Fraud

Five Threats to Financial Services: Part Four, Payment Card Fraud

August 14, 2018 | 6 Min Read

Payment card information is the lifeblood of the...
Digital Shadows Contributes to Insider Threat Research

Digital Shadows Contributes to Insider Threat Research

August 9, 2018 | 5 Min Read

On July 30, Forrester published its latest...
Five Threats to Financial Services: Phishing Campaigns

Five Threats to Financial Services: Phishing Campaigns

August 8, 2018 | 7 Min Read

In our last blog, we highlighted how banking...
FIN7: Arrests and Developments

FIN7: Arrests and Developments

August 2, 2018 | 6 Min Read

Three alleged members of FIN7 arrested On August...
Security Spotlight Series: Dr. Richard Gold

Security Spotlight Series: Dr. Richard Gold

July 31, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Organizations rely on Digital Shadows to be an...
Cyber Threats to ERP Applications: Threat Landscape

Cyber Threats to ERP Applications: Threat Landscape

July 24, 2018 | 4 Min Read

What are ERP Applications? Organizations rely on...
Five Threats to Financial Services: Banking Trojans

Five Threats to Financial Services: Banking Trojans

July 19, 2018 | 5 Min Read

A couple of weeks ago, we learned about a new...
Mitre ATT&CK™ and the Mueller GRU Indictment: Lessons for Organizations

Mitre ATT&CK™ and the Mueller GRU Indictment: Lessons for Organizations

July 17, 2018 | 10 Min Read

A recent indictment revealed how the GRU...
Alleged Carbanak Files and Source Code Leaked: Digital Shadows’ Initial Findings

Alleged Carbanak Files and Source Code Leaked: Digital Shadows’ Initial Findings

July 11, 2018 | 6 Min Read

Digital Shadows’ Russian-speaking security team...
Security Analyst Spotlight Series: Harrison Van Riper

Security Analyst Spotlight Series: Harrison Van Riper

July 10, 2018 | 6 Min Read

Organizations rely on our cyber intelligence...
How Cybercriminals are Using Messaging Platforms

How Cybercriminals are Using Messaging Platforms

June 21, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Alternative Ways Criminals Transact Online: A...
Five Threats to Financial Services: Part One, Insiders

Five Threats to Financial Services: Part One, Insiders

June 19, 2018 | 5 Min Read

The sensitive and financial data held by banks...
Security Analyst Spotlight Series: Rafael Amado

Security Analyst Spotlight Series: Rafael Amado

June 14, 2018 | 9 Min Read

Organizations rely on Digital Shadows to be an...
How Cybercriminals are using Blockchain DNS: From the Market to the .Bazar

How Cybercriminals are using Blockchain DNS: From the Market to the .Bazar

June 12, 2018 | 5 Min Read

Since the takedowns of AlphaBay and Hansa in...
Threats to the 2018 Football World Cup: Traditional Rules or a New Style of Play?

Threats to the 2018 Football World Cup: Traditional Rules or a New Style of Play?

June 7, 2018 | 7 Min Read

The tension and excitement that precedes all...
Market.ms: Heir to the AlphaBay and Hansa throne?

Market.ms: Heir to the AlphaBay and Hansa throne?

June 4, 2018 | 5 Min Read

It’s almost one year since the AlphaBay and...
Keys to the Kingdom: Exposed Security Assessments

Keys to the Kingdom: Exposed Security Assessments

April 24, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Organizations employ external consultants and...
Out In The Open: Corporate Secrets Exposed Through Misconfigured Services

Out In The Open: Corporate Secrets Exposed Through Misconfigured Services

April 18, 2018 | 4 Min Read

For organizations dealing with proprietary...
When There’s No Need to Hack: Exposed Personal Information

When There’s No Need to Hack: Exposed Personal Information

April 17, 2018 | 4 Min Read

With Equifax‘s breach of 145 million records...
Escalation in Cyberspace: Not as Deniable as We All Seem to Think?

Escalation in Cyberspace: Not as Deniable as We All Seem to Think?

April 12, 2018 | 5 Min Read

The recent assassination attempt on former...
Leveraging the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report

Leveraging the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report

April 10, 2018 | 5 Min Read

Today, the 11th edition of the Verizon Data...
When Sharing Is Not Caring: Over 1.5 Billion Files Exposed Through Misconfigured Services

When Sharing Is Not Caring: Over 1.5 Billion Files Exposed Through Misconfigured Services

April 5, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Our recent report “Too Much Information”,...
Genesis Botnet: The Market Claiming to Sell Bots That Bypass Fingerprinting Controls

Genesis Botnet: The Market Claiming to Sell Bots That Bypass Fingerprinting Controls

April 3, 2018 | 4 Min Read

An emerging criminal market, Genesis store,...
The Five Families: The Most Wanted Ransomware Groups

The Five Families: The Most Wanted Ransomware Groups

March 27, 2018 | 5 Min Read

Last week we presented a webinar on “Emerging...
Pop-up Twitter Bots: The Shift to Opportunistic Targeting

Pop-up Twitter Bots: The Shift to Opportunistic Targeting

March 22, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Since the furor surrounding Russia’s alleged...
Cyber Security as Public Health

Cyber Security as Public Health

March 21, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Public health, one of the great 20th century...
Anonymous and the New Face of Hacktivism: What to Look Out For in 2018

Anonymous and the New Face of Hacktivism: What to Look Out For in 2018

March 13, 2018 | 6 Min Read

The Anonymous collective has been the face of...
It’s Accrual World: Tax Return Fraud in 2018

It’s Accrual World: Tax Return Fraud in 2018

March 7, 2018 | 5 Min Read

With just over a month until Tax Deadline Day,...
The New Frontier: Forecasting Cryptocurrency Fraud

The New Frontier: Forecasting Cryptocurrency Fraud

March 1, 2018 | 6 Min Read

Not a week goes by without a new case of...
Threats to the Upcoming Italian Elections

Threats to the Upcoming Italian Elections

February 22, 2018 | 7 Min Read

On 5 March Italian citizens will vanno alle urne...
Prioritize to Avoid Security Nihilism

Prioritize to Avoid Security Nihilism

February 20, 2018 | 3 Min Read

In many situations associated with cyber...
Infraud Forum Indictment and Arrests: What it Means

Infraud Forum Indictment and Arrests: What it Means

February 15, 2018 | 7 Min Read

On 07 February 2018, the U.S. Department of...
Cryptojacking: An Overview

Cryptojacking: An Overview

February 13, 2018 | 5 Min Read

What is Cryptojacking? Cryptojacking is the...
2017 Android malware in review: 4 key takeaways

2017 Android malware in review: 4 key takeaways

February 8, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Android mobile devices were an attractive target...
Phishing for Gold: Threats to the 2018 Winter Games

Phishing for Gold: Threats to the 2018 Winter Games

February 6, 2018 | 7 Min Read

Digital Shadows has been monitoring major...
Four Ways Criminals Are Exploiting Interest in Initial Coin Offerings

Four Ways Criminals Are Exploiting Interest in Initial Coin Offerings

February 1, 2018 | 5 Min Read

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are a way of...
Another Year Wiser: Key Dates to Look Out For In 2018

Another Year Wiser: Key Dates to Look Out For In 2018

January 10, 2018 | 4 Min Read

Early last year, we published a blog outlining...
Meltdown and Spectre: The Story So Far

Meltdown and Spectre: The Story So Far

January 4, 2018 | 5 Min Read

On Wednesday, rumors surfaced that there were...
Cybercriminal Christmas Wish List

What Attackers Want for Christmas

December 22, 2017 | 4 Min Read

Our guest author Krampus has a special blog post...
online carding bots

OL1MP: A Telegram Bot Making Carding Made Easy This Holiday Season

December 21, 2017 | 3 Min Read

Back in July, we published our research on the...
‘Tis The Season To Do Predictions – The 2018 Cybersecurity Landscape

‘Tis The Season To Do Predictions – The 2018 Cybersecurity Landscape

December 18, 2017 | 3 Min Read

This post originally appeared on Huffington...
Risks to Retail: Cybercriminals Sharing the Joy This Holiday Season

Risks to Retail: Cybercriminals Sharing the Joy This Holiday Season

November 21, 2017 | 3 Min Read

Despite some early deals, Black Friday officially...
Fake News is More Than a Political Battlecry

Fake News is More Than a Political Battlecry

November 16, 2017 | 3 Min Read

This week, British Prime Minister Theresa May...
Why “Have a Safe Trip” Is Taking On Greater Meaning

Why “Have a Safe Trip” Is Taking On Greater Meaning

November 14, 2017 | 5 Min Read

This post originally appeared...
OPCATALUNYA

Pwnage to Catalonia: Five Things We Know About OpCatalunya

November 2, 2017 | 5 Min Read

Since October 24th, Digital Shadows has observed...
ICS Security Cyber Aware

ICS Security: Strawmen In the Power Station

October 31, 2017 | 5 Min Read

Congrats, it is now almost November and we have...
cyber extortion

Extorters Going to Extort: This Time Other Criminals Are the Victims

October 26, 2017 | 3 Min Read

We are increasingly used to the tactic of...
cyber vulnerabilities

Trust vs Access: A Tale of Two Vulnerability Classes

October 20, 2017 | 5 Min Read

It's been a big week in cyberspace, with high...
krack attacks

Key Reinstallation Attacks (KRACK): The Impact So Far

October 16, 2017 | 4 Min Read

Today, a series of high-severity vulnerabilities...
german election threats

Bringing Down the Wahl: Three Threats to the German Federal Election

September 14, 2017 | 7 Min Read

Hacking has become the boogie man of political...
Exploit Kits

Fluctuation in the Exploit Kit Market – Temporary Blip or Long-Term Trend?

August 16, 2017 | 5 Min Read

Exploit kit activity is waning. Collectively...
Criminal Markets Alpha Bay Hansa

Cybercrime Finds a Way, the Limited Impact of AlphaBay and Hansa’s Demise

August 7, 2017 | 5 Min Read

The law enforcement operations that took down the...
Texting SMS Cyber Threats

Reading Your Texts For Fun and Profit – How Criminals Subvert SMS-Based MFA

August 1, 2017 | 4 Min Read

Why Multi Factor? Read almost any cyber security...
Credit Card Fraud

Fraudsters Scoring Big – an Inside Look at the Carding Ecosystem

July 18, 2017 | 3 Min Read

In season two of the Netflix series Narcos, Pablo...
Criminal Market Place Bitcoin Virtual Currency

The Future of Marketplaces: Forecasting the Decentralized Model

July 17, 2017 | 4 Min Read

Last week we wrote about the disappearance of...
exploit kit

Petya-Like Wormable Malware: The “Who” and the “Why”

June 30, 2017 | 7 Min Read

Late on 27 June, the New York Times reported that...
Cyber Criminal Attack Vectors

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: Attack Vectors are Important But Don’t Ignore Attacker Goals

June 23, 2017 | 5 Min Read

Reporting on intrusions or attacks often dwells...
Dark Web Cyber Crime

Threats From the Dark Web

June 26, 2017 | 5 Min Read

Despite the hype associated with the dark web,...
Account Takeover Credential Stuffing

7 Tips for Protecting Against Account Takeovers

May 22, 2017 | 3 Min Read

In May 2017, an amalgamation of over 1 billion...
WannaCry Ransomware

5 Lessons from WannaCry: Preventing Attacks with Security Engineering

May 16, 2017 | 5 Min Read

With the recent news storm concerning the...
WannaCry Ransomware

WannaCry: The Early 2000s Called, They Want Their Worms Back

May 12, 2017 | 3 Min Read

Earlier today it was revealed that the United...
Threat Actors Cyber Criminals

The Usual Suspects: Understanding the Nuances of Actors’ Motivations and Capabilities

April 21, 2017 | 3 Min Read

When it comes to their adversaries, organizations...
French Election Cyber Threats

Liberté, égalité, securité: 4 Threats to the French Presidential Election

April 20, 2017 | 5 Min Read

French citizens will take to the polls on April...
OpIsrael

OpIsrael Hacktivists Targeted By Unknown Threat Actor

March 30, 2017 | 3 Min Read

Ideologically-motivated “hacktivist” actors...
Turk Hack

Turk Hack Team and the “Netherlands Operation”

March 29, 2017 | 4 Min Read

Since mid-March, Turk Hack Team have been...
Tax Fraud

Tax Fraud in 2017

March 27, 2017 | 4 Min Read

The IRS recently released an alert that warned...
Dutch Flag

Dutch Elections – Looking Back at Cyber Activity

March 21, 2017 | 3 Min Read

Last week, I wrote about the potential threats to...
Dutch Elections Red Pencil

Back to the red pencil – Cyber threats to the Dutch elections

March 13, 2017 | 5 Min Read

Over the weekend, media reports surfaced about...
Financial Threats

Learning from the Top Threats Financial Services Faced in 2016

March 8, 2017 | 2 Min Read

Organizations operating within the financial...
Blaze Exploit Kit

New “Blaze” exploit kit claims to exploit recent Cisco WebEx vulnerability

March 2, 2017 | 4 Min Read

A previously undetected exploit kit has been...
Sunset Stock

Sun to Set on BEPS/Sundown Exploit Kit?

February 22, 2017 | 4 Min Read

On February 13, 2017, the security researcher...
Valentines Day

Four Things to Look Out for This Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2017 | 4 Min Read

Consumers are increasingly moving to the Internet...
Malware Taylor Swift

An unusually Swift(tay) malware delivery tactic

February 9, 2017 | 5 Min Read

While doing some background research into recent...
Mongo DB

How the Frenzy Unfolded: Analyzing Various Mongo Extortion Campaigns

February 7, 2017 | 4 Min Read

The MongoDB “ransom” pandemic, which has been...
Super Bowl 2017

Ready for the Blitz: Assessing the Threats to Super Bowl LI

February 2, 2017 | 4 Min Read

Like any major event, Super Bowl LI brings with...
ATM Malware

Making Cents of ATM Malware Campaigns – Comparing and Contrasting Operational Methodologies

January 30, 2017 | 4 Min Read

Throughout 2016 some of the most notable...
Two Factor Authentication

Dial “M” for malware: Two-factor scamming

January 26, 2017 | 4 Min Read

Adversaries are developing new ways of attacking...
Ripper cc

Innovation in The Underworld: Reducing the Risk of Ripper Fraud

January 23, 2017 | 7 Min Read

Reputation is incredibly important for business....
Calendar Threats for 2017

Known Unknowns: Key Events to Keep Your Eyes Out for in 2017

January 19, 2017 | 3 Min Read

On Friday, millions will tune in to see Donald...
Keyboard

All You Can Delete MongoDB Buffet

January 12, 2017 | 4 Min Read

A number of extortion actors were detected...
Website

10 Ways You Can Prepare for DDoS Attacks in 2017

January 11, 2017 | 1 Min Read

At the end of last month, we published a paper...
Anonymous Hacktivist

Mirai: A Turning Point For Hacktivism?

December 16, 2016 | 5 Min Read

A “digital nuclear attack”. A “zombie...
Trojan

Coming to a Country Near You? The Rapid Development of The TrickBot Trojan

December 16, 2016 | 4 Min Read

Since the discovery of TrickBot in September...
DDoS Extortion

Crowdsourced DDoS Extortion – A Worrying Development?

December 13, 2016 | 3 Min Read

We all know about DDoS extortion – the process...
Chess Game

A Model of Success: Anticipating Your Attackers’ Moves

December 1, 2016 | 4 Min Read

In a previous blog, we discussed the role of...
Retail Cyber Threats

Windows Shopping: 7 Threats To Look Out For This Holiday Season

November 23, 2016 | 5 Min Read

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday,...
Ransomware as a service

Ransomware-as-a-service: The Business Case

November 22, 2016 | 4 Min Read

It can be tempting to dismiss cybercriminal...
Media and Broadcasting Threats

Top 5 Threats to the Media and Broadcasting Industry

November 11, 2016 | 3 Min Read

For media and broadcasting organizations, the...
Code

Surveying the Criminal Market

November 8, 2016 | 3 Min Read

It’s no secret your personal information and...
Anonymous Poland

Anonymous Poland – Not Your Typical Hacktivist Group

October 28, 2016 | 4 Min Read

On October 29, 2016 a Twitter account associated...
Device Security

Don’t Break the Internet, Fix Your Smart Devices

October 25, 2016 | 4 Min Read

The Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack,...
American Election Threats

Rocking the Vote? The Effects of Cyber Activity On The U.S. Election

October 25, 2016 | 5 Min Read

Contrary to some media reporting, our latest...
US Polling Data

Targeting of Elections; Old News, Fresh Tactics

October 25, 2016 | 4 Min Read

There has been no shortage of media coverage...
Domain Squatting

Squashing Domain Squatting

October 24, 2016 | 6 Min Read

Digital Shadows was recently the victim of a...
Combatting Online Crime With “Needle-Rich Haystacks”

Combatting Online Crime With “Needle-Rich Haystacks”

October 18, 2016 | 3 Min Read

At Digital Shadows our analyst team is...
Plumbing the Depths: the Telnet protocol

Plumbing the Depths: the Telnet protocol

October 3, 2016 | 4 Min Read

On October 1, 2016 Krebs on Security reported...
Exploit kit

Swotting Up On Exploit Kit Infection Vectors

October 3, 2016 | 3 Min Read

Exploit kit users need to drive web traffic to...
Phishful Of Dollars: BEC Remains Top Of The Charts

Phishful Of Dollars: BEC Remains Top Of The Charts

October 3, 2016 | 3 Min Read

Business email compromise (BEC) is not going...
exploit kit

Forecasting the exploit kit landscape

September 15, 2016 | 5 Min Read

We’ve previously written on the most popular...
exploit kit

Understanding Exploit Kits’ Most Popular Vulnerabilities

September 12, 2016 | 2 Min Read

One significant aspect of mitigating the risk...
OpSilence

Hacktivism, it’s not all DoSing around

September 12, 2016 | 4 Min Read

Hacktivism isn’t all high levels of low impact...
SCADA hacks

Show me the context: The hacking proof of concept

September 8, 2016 | 2 Min Read

A common feature at security conferences,...
DD4BC

Bozkurt to Buhtrap: Cyber threats affecting financial institutions in 1H 2016

August 23, 2016 | 3 Min Read

At the beginning of 2016, it was reported that...
OpOlympicHacking

Forecasting OpOlympicHacking

August 15, 2016 | 3 Min Read

We recently published a report on the eight...
thedarkoverlord

“Air cover” – cybercriminal marketing and the media

August 10, 2016 | 3 Min Read

For a new or relatively unknown cybercriminal...
Photo URL

Overexposure – photos as the missing link

August 3, 2016 | 3 Min Read

You have heard it all before ­– recycling...
OpOlympicHacking

More Data Leaks as part of OpOlympicHacking

July 28, 2016 | 2 Min Read

In our recent research, we demonstrated eight...
Anonymous Brasil

Tracking the Field: Eight cybersecurity considerations around Rio 2016

July 25, 2016 | 2 Min Read

Last week, we saw reports of individuals arrested...
PoodleCorp

PoodleCorp: in the business of kudos

July 22, 2016 | 5 Min Read

PoodleCorp claimed to have successfully rendered...
DDoS

Three Tactics Behind Cyber Extortion

July 11, 2016 | 3 Min Read

As explained in a previous blog, extortion is not...
Dridex

Modern crimeware campaigns – two bytes of the cherry

July 5, 2016 | 3 Min Read

To a Columbian drug lord, the most valuable...
SHA1

Recycling, bad for your environment!

June 27, 2016 | 4 Min Read

The news is constantly flooded with yet another...
Silk Road

The philosophical difference between the Old and New Schools of the cybercriminal underground

June 27, 2016 | 3 Min Read

I would recommend that anyone interested in the...
EU

Forecasting the implications for cybersecurity in Britain after Thursday’s referendum

June 21, 2016 | 4 Min Read

On Thursday, the United Kingdom goes to the polls...
dark web

Shining a light on the dark web

June 21, 2016 | 3 Min Read

The dark web receives more than its fair share of...
OPSEC

OPSEC versus branding – the cyber criminal’s dilemma

June 17, 2016 | 3 Min Read

Like any business, cybercriminals offering...
TeamViewer

“Hidden” TeamViewer service advertised on criminal forum

June 17, 2016 | 5 Min Read

Over the last few weeks, there have been a number...
Cyber extortion

Your money or your data: Keeping up-to-date with the innovation

June 17, 2016 | 2 Min Read

DDoS extortion and ransomware attacks have...
Business email compromises

Are you at risk from business email compromise?

June 6, 2016 | 3 Min Read

Business email compromises (BEC) are on the rise....
OpOlympicHacking

Hacktivism: same old, same old?

June 3, 2016 | 4 Min Read

Cyber activists, or hacktivists, have become a...
OPSEC

The OPSEC Opportunity

May 31, 2016 | 2 Min Read

Operations Security (OPSEC) has long been a key...
Advanced Persistent Threat

The Plan is Mightier than the Sword – Re(sources)

May 24, 2016 | 3 Min Read

After having discussed the importance of planning...
OpIcarus

OpIcarus – Increased Claims Against Financial Institutions

May 23, 2016 | 3 Min Read

There’s no shortage of online hacktivist...
Goliath malware

Goliath ransomware, giant problem or giant con?

May 17, 2016 | 3 Min Read

Ransomware can cause big problems for individuals...
DBIR

Analyzing the 2016 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report

May 2, 2016 | 4 Min Read

Last week Verizon released the 2016 Data Breach...
OpIsrael

OpIsrael: An Update

April 6, 2016 | 3 Min Read

Last month our intelligence team published a blog...
Email Compromise

URGENT, ACT. RQD: Navigating Business Email Compromise

April 4, 2016 | 3 Min Read

Call me phishmail. Whaling ­– also known as...
dark web

Dark web: More than just a bastion of criminality

March 31, 2016 | 3 Min Read

For many people, the term “dark web” refers...
Automated Vending Carts

Online credit card shops – a numbers game

March 21, 2016 | 3 Min Read

You may have recently read headlines about an...
ASOR Hack Team

OpOlympicHacking: A hurdle for Rio’s sponsors to vault

February 22, 2016 | 3 Min Read

This month Anonymous Brazil and an affiliate...
bitcoin

Why Go Through the Trouble to Tumble?

February 17, 2016 | 3 Min Read

Today you can purchase a pizza in Berlin and pay...
PoS system

Surviving the threats posed by PoS malware

February 2, 2016 | 3 Min Read

These days, you can’t go into a store or mall...
Israeli Cyber Attack

“Largest cyber attack” on Israel lacks power

February 1, 2016 | 3 Min Read

On 26 January, Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli...
OpKillngBay

Escalation in OpKillingBay

January 25, 2016 | 3 Min Read

There has been a noticeable recent increase in...
web hosting

Criminal services – Bulletproof hosting

January 21, 2016 | 2 Min Read

Cybercrime can be a lucrative business if you do...
DD4BC

DD4BC Arrests: What Now for Extortion?

January 15, 2016 | 3 Min Read

Earlier this week, Europol published a press...
exploit kits

A Complex Threat Landscape

January 13, 2016 | 2 Min Read

Achieving a better understanding of the threat...
Remote Access Trojan

RATs: Invasion of Your Privacy

January 11, 2016 | 2 Min Read

When most people hear the word “RAT” they...
cryptocurrencies

Digital Currency and Getting Paid In The Underground

January 6, 2016 | 3 Min Read

It’s been said that money makes the world go...
Malware

Criminal Services – Crypting

December 18, 2015 | 3 Min Read

In the world of cybercrime, malicious software...
Hacker Buba

‘Hacker Buba’: Failed extortion, what next?

December 11, 2015 | 2 Min Read

An actor identifying itself as "Hacker Buba"...
Antivirus

Criminal Services – Counter Antivirus Services

November 30, 2015 | 4 Min Read

Infosecurity Magazine recently reported that two...
Crackas with attitude

Crackas With Attitude: What We’ve Learned

November 23, 2015 | 3 Min Read

One of the most active actors of the past several...
MitM

The Way of Hacking

November 10, 2015 | 3 Min Read

In the Japanese martial art of Aikido it is said...
ransomware

Emerging Markets: Online Extortion Matures via DDoS Attacks

November 9, 2015 | 5 Min Read

Unlike scenes from books or movies where shadowy...
crackas with attitude

Crackas With Attitude strike again?

October 28, 2015 | 2 Min Read

Last week, the New York Post reported that...
DDoS

Smilex: Dangers of Poor OpSec

October 27, 2015 | 3 Min Read

Background On 13 Oct 2015, it was revealed in an...
online carding

Online Carding

October 7, 2015 | 3 Min Read

There is no shortage of credit card information...
OPSEC

OPSEC and Trust In An Underground Cybercriminal Forum

September 9, 2015 | 4 Min Read

Introduction There are perhaps tens of thousands...
ransomware

Emerging Markets & Services: Ransomware-as-a-Service

September 7, 2015 | 5 Min Read

Emerging Markets & Services:...
duqu 2.0

Kaspersky Labs Discloses Duqu 2.0 Attack

September 7, 2015 | 4 Min Read

Introduction Today social media channels the...
Extortion

Online Extortion – Old Ways, New Tricks

September 7, 2015 | 6 Min Read

Online Extortion - Old Ways, New...
cyber extortion

Exploiting Is My Business…and Business Is Good

September 4, 2015 | 8 Min Read

Introduction Exploit kits are not new to the...