The Underground E-conomy: Cyber Crime Exposed

Underground Economy and Cyber Crime - Exposed

(This infographic literally exposes the world of cyber criminals and how they use our personal information. The illustration depicts cyber crime as a shady underworld that exists beneath our feet. The reader is invited to follow a pair of tunnels that stretch deep below the earth, revealing the many layers of cyber crime and the network of criminals who toil there, hidden from the unsuspecting public.)

Eight million Canadians fell victim to it last year[1]. It's getting more powerful and organized every year. It's cyber crime. And it thrives on your personal information. Follow the tunnels to see how cyber criminals get your info and make millions with it.

(A man types away innocently on his computer in his home. Beside his home stands a large office building. Two tunnels extend below the man's home.)

You willingly share your personal information online, with companies and websites. And sometimes unknowingly with "botnets."

Even major businesses get hacked. So if they have your info, hackers might too.

(Beneath the man's home, the two tunnels, which travel up and down, lead to a dungeon filled with hundreds of computers and servers called "botnets." A happy man dressed as a farmer, called a "Pharmer", whistles as he counts a huge wad of money.)

Botnets are networks of personal computers that have been infected with malware. Cyber criminals use them to send spam, install malware on other computers, and carry out denial-of-service attacks, all without the owners realizing it.

Pharmers rent botnets to hackers for as much as $5000 an hour[5].

5 million estimated botnets worldwide[2].

(The two tunnels continue from the botnet-filled room to another room below, which is filled with hooded hackers busily pounding away at laptops. In front of them, three men stand at large printers, cutting away at long forms of personal information being fed to them by the hackers, sending the information to yet another room down below.)

30 million compromised computers were used to create one of the biggest botnets ever[3].

Every minute, 232 computers around the world are infected by malware[4].

Hackers often use botnets to steal information from individuals and businesses, including email addresses, financial information and dates of birth.

(The final room below shows the people who are using the personal information, called monetizers. They are depicted as hundreds of people working away at desktop computers. They are being supervised by a pair of well-dressed gangsters who stand above them on a balcony, chomping cigars.)

Hackers sell that information to spammers, identity thieves and spoofers, also knows as monetizers.

Monetizers turn your data into false identities, credit card scams and more spam.

70% of Canadian adults have experienced a cyber crime[1].

Know how to protect yourself online.

  • Be wary of emails from financial institutions and other organizations that ask for your personal information. If in doubt, call the company to verify the email.
  • Don't use your credit card number online unless you know the company you're dealing with is reputable and the website is secure.
  • Set different passwords for all the websites you use. And don't forget to update your antivirus software regularly.

Keep your info out of the Underground E-conomy.

  • Be careful with sharing your personal information like your cell number, address, workplace and social insurance number (SIN). Your SIN number is virtually a key to your identity and credit reports.
  • Keep your social media profiles private. Cyber criminals scan them for your personal information.
  • Visit Getcybersafe.gc.ca for more tips on how to protect your personal information online.

Footnotes

[1] Norton Cybercrime Report 2012 "Quick Facts for Canada"

[2] Symantec MessageLabs Internet Security Report, 2010

[3] SecureList, "End of the Line for Bredolab Botnet," December 2010

[4] RSA 2012 Cybercrime Trends Report

[5] CIO, "Are You At Risk? What Cyber Criminals Do With Your Personal Data," 2012; McAfee Threats Report: First Quarter 2012