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While the possibility of identity theft and fraud are ever-present today, the danger can still feel somewhat abstract. The idea of nefarious criminals selling stolen credentials can seem far away from an everyday life of Facebook scrolling and Google spreadsheets. Countering this feeling is important, as people will be more willing to protect their data if they recognize the gravity of the threats they face.
The recent takedown of the black-market site Infraud should serve as such a galvanizing event. Known as a refuge for identity buyers and sellers, this site was the kind of criminal marketplace that fuels the financial model for cybercrime. Revelations about the site’s destruction shouldn’t be taken as a sign that fraudsters are on the run, however. The sheer size and longevity of the site demonstrates just how deep thieves’ roots go.
Millions of dollars changed hands
Dark Reading revealed that when the U.S. Department of Justice shut down Infraud, they charged 36 people with a litany of crimes. Those accused criminals come from all around the world, with 17 countries represented in the indictments, including the U.S. The site they created was a one-stop marketplace for stolen data, and during its seven-year existence, it inflicted approximately $530 million in financial damage.
Wired noted that the site was not located on the so-called dark web, home of such notorious marketplaces as Silk Road. Instead, the website was merely a forum, one that dealt in illegal online businesses such as money laundering and malware distribution in addition to the trading of stolen personal data. Infraud lasted four years longer than Silk Road did, staying under the radar for most of its existence.
At its beginning, the site was a conventional website running on a server in a country outside of U.S. law enforcement reach. Users had to simply type the address into their browsers, and they could visit. The page made use of a legal loophole – banning attacks on Russian nationals discouraged attention from Russian authorities – to stay open for longer. Eventually, authorities from the U.S., Australia and Europe managed to take the site down together, though Wired explained they haven’t yet told the public how they accomplished this feat.
Fraudsters were not subtle
Perhaps the most frightening aspect of Infraud is that the site’s operators appeared quite confident that their crimes would not or could not be stopped. Instead of trying to hide the purpose of the page with obfuscating tactics, Infraud users sold data in the marketplace under the motto “In fraud we trust.” The BBC reported a litany of crimes allegedly committed on Infraud, and this list can drive home the magnitude of cybercriminals’ threat to everyday internet users:
- One of the indicted individuals advertised login credentials for 795,000 U.K. HSBC online banking users.
- Another user sold 1,300 PayPal account identities.
Fraudsters became so serious and causal about their illegal services that they rated and reviewed one another, as users would on a legitimate auction or marketplace site.Though the damage caused by Infraud was estimated at $530,000, law enforcement officials noted that planned activities added up to $2.2 billion.
The importance of online security and identity protection is great and growing. While one large marketplace has finally stopped operating, it would be reckless to assume there has been a major decrease in the threat profile. Defending personal accounts and credentials against improper use is simply part of being an online citizen in 2018.
Learn more how you can leverage artificial intelligence to help monitor for your personal information on the “dark web” and numerous black-market chat rooms with Identity Guard. Start protecting your identity today!