Understanding the Cybercrime Business Model

As the sophistication of — and money to be made in — cybercrime grows, cyber criminals are adopting traditional business approaches to their activities, including human resources and recruiting, training, “help desk,” and disaster recovery. Like all good business leaders, cyber criminals want to maximize profit and reduce costs.

Cybercrime Does not Equal Hacking

The modern cyber criminal is not the stereotypical 1980s “hacker.” Certainly, the slash-and-burn approach to wreaking havoc for IT organizations still exists, but the “successful” cybercriminals—those who perpetrate sophisticated ransomware attacks and targeted crimes aimed at financial institutions—can be likened more to today’s ruthlessly efficient CEOs or a well-developed black market. These cybercrime organizations know that companies are aware of the threat they pose. So, like any business, they seek to minimize risk by diffusing responsibility.

The “Hacker Business Model”

David Ferbrache, former head of Cyber and Space for the British Ministry of Defense, refers to today’s cyber criminal organizations as using a “federated business model,” with an idea person in charge and underlings who have specific roles and areas of expertise. Like any business, cyber criminal organizations have one goal: making money. In the world of cybercrime, data is the cybercriminal’s currency.

Defending Against Hacker, Inc.

Today’s businesses walk a fine line between automation and security. Cybercriminals seek to exploit that automation to slip in under the wire. The world of cybercrime changes continually, and businesses must change with them. Mark Hughes, Security CEO at BT, puts it like this: “Businesses need to not only defend against cyber attacks but also disrupt the criminal organizations that launch those attacks.” Businesses must find ways to make it harder for cybercrime organizations to do business, such as through so-called “arms races” between hackers and cybersecurity experts, which raise the costs of exploits and may make criminals look elsewhere for their victims.

Noa Bar-Yosef of Security Week offers three bits of valuable advice to help companies defend against “Hacker, Inc.”:

  • Study the business model cyber criminal organizations use: Focus on the controls, not the symptoms of the attack.
  • Learn current hacking techniques so that you can put the right security in place.
  • Blacklist hosting providers known to service cybercrime organizations.

Cybersecurity is no small feat, especially for small businesses. But, the security experts at All Phases IT can help. Contact us today for a security assessment, and keep your business—and its data—safe.