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Published on February 25th, 2019 📆 | 1613 Views ⚑

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Crooks offer millions to skilled black hats to help them in extortion campaigns

Cybercriminals are offering over a million dollars per year to skilled professionals like vxers and penetration testers to help them in extortion campaigns.

According to a new report published by the security firm Digital Shadows cybercriminal organizations are willing to pay millions to skilled hackers and malware developers.

The analysis of posts on Dark Web forums reveals that at least one threat actor is willing to pay more than $64,000 per month ($768,000 per year) to skilled hackers to recruit in criminal activities. Like bigenterprises, the criminal organization is offering a professional and economic growth plan, in fact, the salary would go up to $90,000 per month ($1,080,000 per year) for the second year.

Cybercrime gangs aim at hiring skilled hackers that can help them in extortion campaign against high-worth individuals, in this case they promise $30,000 per month ($360,000 per year).

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“For purer extortionists, the threat actor TDO used the KickAss forum to recruit individuals with network management, penetration testing, and programming skills. TDO posted job advertisements with specifications and salaries that would rival those offered by most corporate businesses. Recruits were tempted with £50,000 ($64,000) per month, with add-ons and a final salary after the second year of £70,000 ($90,000) per month.” reads the report published by Digital Shadows.

“Those with Chinese, Arabic or German skills could earn an added five percent on their salary or commission.

Highly competitive salaries and other forms of remuneration are becoming an essential element of attractive in the cybercrime ecosystem.

Experts believe that so high salaries could motivate skilled professionals in abandoning bug bounty programs and join the cybercrime arena.

Extortion is a profitable business, according to Digital Shadows, using compromised credentials found on public websites, crooks earned over $330,000 through sextortion campaigns in 2018.

Skilled professionals could also opt to work alone, blackmail and extortion guides are offered for sale on several underground forums for less than $10. Black markets have a crucial role in the cybercrime ecosystem, they allow to match offer and demand for stolen credentials, botnets, sensitive documentation.

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Sextortion campaigns allow crooks to use credential sets that are no longer valid, sextortion-based email campaigns seek to extort victims by threatening to publicly embarrass them for engaging in a sexually explicit act. Scammers, in fact, claim to have evidence and use previously exposed passwords as “proof” of compromise.

“These emails have been reported intermittently since late 2017, but the scale and persistence of the campaigns rocketed over 2018. Between July 2018 and February 2019, Digital Shadows has collected and analyzed a sample of sextortion emails in which 89,000 addresses received over 790,000 sextortion attempts.” continues the report

One of the most interesting case studies for extortion attempt reported in the report was the one that involved the hacking group The Dark Overlord.

In January, The Dark Overlord published the first batch of decryption keys for 650 confidential documents related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The group published a message on Pastebin announcing that it decided to offer for sale the documents even if the law firm paid to avoid publishing the documents. The Dark Overlord group decided to publish the document because the company contacted law enforcement.

If you want to read more about extortion activities conducted by cybercrime gangs give a look at the report.

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