The Dark World of Cybercrime: How Do Cybercriminals Operate?

Cybercrime is big business today with sophisticated cybercriminal groups constantly on the search for their next victims. Large criminal organizations such as ransomware gangs operate in complex and elusive ways. Many of them are very well-funded and cost businesses millions of dollars through extortion. 

Most cybercriminals today are in it for the money. They are becoming far more structured in their approach and running their organizations like any large corporation. Becoming more ruthless and covert all the time helps them to minimize their risks and increase their profits. 

They use sophisticated technology

The more cybercrime grows, the more sophisticated it becomes and the harder it is to detect. In many cases, the source of an attack is due to malware that was installed through social engineering. Ransomware criminals use sophisticated encryption and deployment technology. 

Thwarting cybercriminals also requires the use of more advanced security solutions. Email security is more important than ever due to the use of sophisticated social engineering techniques to trick employees into giving them access to systems. Traditional email security solutions can no longer keep them out. 

They attack in many different ways

Certain criminal activities have taken place through the ages, such as fraud, theft, and extortion. Cybercriminals often have the same motives as other criminals, but their attacks happen online and are increasingly complex. 

They engage in hacking which is basically unauthorized access to networks or computer systems. They can compromise a whole organization in this way. Here are some of the most popular types of cyberattacks. 

Phishing emails impersonate legitimate organizations to trick unsuspecting employees into a link and revealing sensitive information. They may be used to steal identities or money. More than 100 million attacks take place daily.

A spoofed email appears to originate from one source but actually has been sent from another source.
A Trojan attack is when an unauthorized program that seems like an authorized program functions on the inside to cause harm.
A ransomware attack involves the encryption of business files and a demand for a ransom to restore the files. 
A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack uses thousands of bot accounts to access a web page at the same time. This denies access to others and brings the website down. This can be a smokescreen for a data breach.

Cybercriminals often use a combination of methods to achieve results. An attack may start with someone clicking on a link in a phishing email. When they disclose private information, cybercriminals can gain access to your system and download files. 

They buy and sell on the dark web

On the dark web, content isn’t indexed on conventional search engines. Cybercriminals can operate on the dark web anonymously. They use a special browser to explore layers of hidden content. They can use the dark web to buy and sell illegal goods. For example, they can allegedly buy and sell malware, credit card information, email account addresses, and much more.

They prey on the uninformed and exploit vulnerabilities

With the switch to remote work, cybercriminals have more weaknesses they can exploit than ever before. Employees working remotely may not be unaware of the security protocols they need to follow. They may allow others to borrow their devices to access social network sites or use public Wi-Fi when sitting in a coffee shop. This gives cybercriminals an opportunity to get access to confidential business information. Having regular cybersecurity training is essential, especially for remote workers. 

They distribute malware for profit

Cybercrime organizations like REvil, a group, based in Russia, sell and distribute malware for profit. RaaS operators will operate like any other business with messaging and payment infrastructure. Their business is to sell ransomware to others, and they even offer technical support to them. They take a cut from every successful attack.

Recent cyberattacks

An attack this year by Lapsus$ on Microsoft wasn’t to steal personal information or money. The attackers wanted to damage Microsoft’s reputation. The international cybercrime group breached the Azure DevOps server. They managed to download 27GB of source code from cloud computing software. Microsoft suffered no major damage and said they had fixed the vulnerabilities. 

The Red Cross is a huge international organization that suffered a cyberattack this year. Cybercriminals stole more than 500 000 records containing sensitive medical data. Many of these records are those of vulnerable people, such as war victims. Cybercriminals can sell such records to international crime rings that target them. Authorities couldn’t identify the source of the attack, and the organization had its servers offline for a while. 

A cyberattack on Cash App, a payment tool, came from a malicious former employee who accessed the servers and shared the personal information of users. It compromised names, trading information and the stock portfolios of about eight million users. 

Protecting data against inevitable breaches

Cyberattacks can extort money by threatening to leak sensitive data online. They can damage hardware and software and disrupt services. It is impossible to prevent all cyberattacks, and recovering from a breach is difficult. Bad actors continue to counter all the attempts organizations make to protect their data and find innovative ways to get around cybersecurity protections.

However, organizations do have many ways to protect data against data breaches.

Having a proactive cyber plan in place is less costly than having to react once a cyberattack has already happened. 
Continuously deploying innovative technology can help to protect data even in the event of a breach. 
Other security measures include using endpoint security solutions, advanced email security, and antivirus scanners. 
Backing up data and educating employees are essential measures. 

Conclusion

Cybercrime is here to stay, and the methods and technology cybercriminals use today are very successful. Big cybercrime organizations are very organized and approach crime in a systematic way. Social engineering tactics are enabling them to bypass some traditional security measures. It is impossible to prevent all cyberattacks, but businesses can take a layered approach to security and institute various measures to reduce their risks. 

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