As summer comes to a close, students all over the world are heading back to the classroom – even in the cyber underground. Over the last few weeks, RSA has observed a spike in the availability of cybercrime courses, lessons, counseling and tutoring that are being offered to help fraudsters achieve their career goals. In what appears to mimic the course catalog model adopted by many legitimate universities, senior fraudsters are turning their expertise into a professorship, helping newcomers master everything from the basic business of fraud to how to avoid law enforcement.
Senior Fraudsters Offer Schooling for Newcomers
It has never been uncommon to see seasoned criminals offer up advice to newcomers, but what was once simple, free advice is now turning into a paid service delivering a comprehensive education on committing fraud. These courses are advertised in the underground and are commonly carried out via Skype videoconferencing to promote interactivity and allow “professors” to partake in Q&A sessions with their students.
These fraudster trade schools further offer ‘job placement’ for graduates through their many underground connections with other experienced criminals. “Professors” will even vouch for star students to help them join the underground communities they would otherwise not be able to access.
And just like in many college classrooms, these cybercrime professors even enforce a rigid absentee policy:
- Students must give a 2 hour advanced notice if they cannot attend.
- Students who fail to notify ahead of time are fined 50% of the fee, and rescheduled for the next class.
- Students who fail to pay absentee fees will forfeit the entire deposited fee.
Beginners’ Cybercrime Classes
The first level of course is designed for beginners, teaching the basics of online financial fraud.
The School of Carding
Approaching the subject that is highest in demand in the underground, vendors have opened schools to teach the different ways to use payment cards in fraud scenarios. One vendor offers classes on a daily basis, at two levels of expertise, and assures personal attention to each student. He also promises that his resources (compromised data) are fresh, personally tested, and never before made available on any ‘public’ lists.
Courses in Card Fraud
Criminals further offer the much in demand payment card fraud classes – one course per payment card type.
Anonymity and Security Course
Stressing the importance of avoiding detection and maintaining anonymity, this course teaches a fraudster the art of avoiding detection, and how to erase digital “fingerprints”. The tutoring vendor offers practical lessons in configuring a computer for complex security and anonymity features. This course includes a theoretical and a practical section, with a duration estimated at four hours.
Becoming a Mule Herder
When criminals need to move money or goods, money mules and item drop mules are arguably the most crucial part of the fraud supply chain. Mules are becoming increasingly scarce in the underground, opening an opportunity for mule herders to increase business profits if they can deliver active mules. As such, one vendor is offering a class on how to recruit mules and open their own “business” as a mule herder.
Special One-on-One Tutorials and Consultations
With a money-back guarantee, one crime school offers personal one-on-one tutorials and problem solving sessions via Skype.
Fostering the Next-Generation of Cybercriminals
As the Fraud-as-a-Service economy continues to evolve and the criminal underground sees new members join its ranks, it is only logical that underground vendors would view this as an opportunity to pad their income by offering a training ground for the ‘next generation’ of cybercriminals.
However, low-cost courses, advice and tutorials, combined with “job placement” and support may indicate that vendors are not only interested in making some extra money, but they see a need to grow the dark economy for their benefit as much as for their customers. As we are seeing, education is critically important for success no matter who you are. As the underground community continues to grow and train its community of cybercriminals, it’s important for the security industry to do the same by fostering an educated workforce that can tackle these challenges head on.