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Russian-speaking cyber criminals feel economic pinch

Russian-speaking cyber criminals are increasingly being forced to refine and adapt their techniques as Vladimir Putins invasion of Ukraine makes current methods redundant

Sebastian Klovig Skelton

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Published: 05 Sep 2022 14: 44

Russian-speaking cyber criminals face diminishing financial returns following Russias invasion of Ukraine, with many scams becoming redundant almost overnight because of sanctions and increased scrutiny of Russian entities, say Digital Shadows researchers.

Predicated on anecdotal feedback posted by Russian-speaking cyber criminals to an undisclosed forum, Digital Shadows Photon Research Team said the financial success of cyber criminals often will come in peaks and troughs.

It is because although threat actors can create a consistent profit through schemes that work with a period, the method used will eventually become redundant, forcing them to invest time and resources to recognize new approaches.

Always in jumps, some scheme works, it is possible to milk it, then your method dies and again you seek out another, study it, it requires a long time, said one user,in accordance with a screengrab distributed to Computer Weekly.

Digital Shadows added that, following Putins invasion of Ukraine, which includes prompted sanctions and extra scrutiny on all cyber activity from Russian entities, many cyber criminals are experiencing to refine and adapt their ways to climb out of this trough again.

Among this is actually the usage of GooglePay along with other financial technologies becoming banned for use across Russia. This resulted in many scams becoming redundant almost overnight, said Digital Shadows researchers in a post, published on 1 September 2022.

The researchers added that, in accordance with another user on the forum, cyber criminals could actually earn just as much as they liked prior to the conflict, but had subsequently lost their capability to successfully conduct shadow work.

In principle, I earned just as much as I needed before special military operation began. I lost my shadow job, and you can find only [RUB] 30,000 left in my own QIWI wallet and $80 in bitcoin, wrote an individual.

The researchers further added that, for all those still in a position to find shadow work, the costs they are able to charge have drastically diminished. One user, for instance, suggested that before the conflict, a threat actor could typically earn $500 for providing initial usage of a targeted network.

Within the context of the conversation, it seems an individual was suggesting prices had significantly dropped after that, wrote the researchers. Weve written numerous times concerning the rise of initial access brokers (IAB) and how this kind of threat actor has greatly assisted cyber crime, however its likely that the marketplace is becoming oversaturated with IABs, and prices lowered consequently.

Having less current earnings was reiterated by other users, who suggested that alternative methods hadn’t worked, plus they were sick and tired of surviving in poverty.

However, the researchers noted that even though current economic and geopolitical situation has stifled the earning capacity of Russian threat actors, chances are to become a short-term hindrance. Various kinds of cyber crime, including ransomware and account takeover, have thrived within the last year, and which will probably continue once we enter the ultimate quarter of 2022, they wrote.

They added that there had, however, been a decrease in carding activity a kind of charge card fraud where stolen bank cards are accustomed to charge prepaid cards though it is difficult to inform if the decline may be the consequence of raids conducted by Russias Federal Security Service (FSB) earlier in 2022, or perhaps a general change in cyber criminal sentiment towards such schemes.

We identified during recent deployments that the sentiment among some cyber criminals was that carding was a diminishing talent, which was becoming more and more difficult to create regular returns from, said the researchers.

Some users expressed concerns of the down sides in receiving up-to-date information over carding activities on forums, while another suggested they deliberately didn’t post carding-related information to avoid competitors from gaining an edge.

Because carding is frequently done by those on the low end of the cyber criminal spectrum without much technical expertise, the researchers said it could be harder for budding cyber criminals to determine themselves if they’re unable to utilize the method as a means of creating up a sustainable income.

Alternatively, the researchers posited that the increasing difficulty of carding meant cyber criminals had simply shifted to more profitable endeavours, such as for example ransomware.

IN-MAY 2022, Verizons Threat Research Advisory Centre (VTRAC) and 80 other independent industry contributors observed a 13% upsurge in ransomware breaches in 2021, a year-on-year jump higher than days gone by five years combined.

In accordance with separate information published by the Photon Research Team in August 2022, a fresh cyber criminal forum has been established that solely and explicitly targets victims in Russia and Belarus.

Referred to as Dumps, the forum includes a small membership of around 100 individuals, possesses sections offering cyber attacks as something, data leaks, illicit materials, carding support, malware and usage of compromised networks.

The Photon team said that while Russias invasion of Ukraine has been condemned all over the world, the conflict has proven very divisive in the cyber criminal community.

Opinions on Russian president Vladimir Putins so-called special military operation be determined by several factors, notably the cyber criminals background, political beliefs or other nationalistic drivers, they wrote.

As weve reported in previous blogs, some internet surfers took it on themselves to take a dynamic role in the conflict, targeting Russian organisations with targeted data breaches, distributed denial of service [DDoS] attacks and defacement activity.

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