Blog New report: Social Media Platforms and the Cybercrime Economy

February 26, 2019 Category: Research, Web of Profit By: Dr Michael McGuire Comments: 1

New report: Social Media Platforms and the Cybercrime Economy

  • New report outlines how cybercriminals are exploiting trust on social media to spread malware and buy/sell hacking tools and expertise
  • With social media playing a crucial day-to-day role in the workplace, this represents a major threat to organisations

After six months of research, I’m excited to say that we are launching our new report: Social Media Platforms and the Cybercrime Economy. This is the next chapter of Into the Web of Profit, which we launched at RSA Conference 2018. Into the Web of Profit identified the development of ‘platform criminality’, whereby cybercriminals are mirroring the tactics of platform companies, like Uber and Amazon. It also raised concerns over how platforms are being exploited to launder money, sell drugs and target companies.

Social Media Platforms and the Cybercrime Economy allowed us to delve into the clear web, to see how social media platforms that businesses and consumers use every day are further supporting the cybercrime economy. We found that cybercriminals are earning at least $3.25bn per year from social media-enabled cybercrime, yet very little is being done to stop them.

This research comes at a time when social media platform providers are under increasing scrutiny. Businesses, governments and individuals have all been vocal in their appeals for greater control and regulatory oversight. Here, through proprietary research, connections with law enforcement, and case studies, we show that social media is acting like a Trojan horse into the enterprise, while putting users at risk of scams and fraud.

A global highway for malware distribution and sales

In the report, you will find clear evidence that social media platforms are making it easier to distribute malware, spread it from platform to platform through chain exploitation, and even buy hacking services and malware. Social media is supporting and enabling cybercrime and being abused by cybercriminals to target organisations and individuals; as well as sell a variety of illicit goods, services and expertise.

Cybercriminals are exploiting the very features of social media platforms that make them so popular: i.e. the ability to make trusted connections with a wide variety of people and businesses. It allows hackers to instantly reach and infect millions of users, globally, with virtually no effort. Whether it’s cryptomining, malvertising, phishing links, or dodgy applications – there are a plethora of ways to pick up an infection.

It’s not just malware distribution, but the volume of cybercrime-as-a-service tools and skills now available for hire. We found exploits on Facebook, botnet hire on YouTube and hacking services on Instagram. This ready availability means that attacks can come from anyone, anywhere and at any time.

More needs to be done to protect users

I hope you enjoy the report, I know I found it eye watering and it has certainly made me question how I use these platforms! While social media provides rich value to businesses, governments and individuals, we all need to educate ourselves on the risks too.

To learn more about the role of social media platforms in cybercrime and the implications this has on organisations, please download Social Media Platforms and the Cybercrime Economy here.

About the Author

Dr Michael McGuire

Dr Michael McGuire
Surrey Crime Research Lab

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2019-02-25T20:32:42-07:00February 26th, 2019|Research, Web of Profit|

One Comment

  1. […] Such a high percentage increases corporate risk of a phishing attack, ransomware breach or other social engineering-related threat. Social media sites in general are a crucial piece in the cybercrime economy. According to recent research from Bromium, cybercriminals earn at least $3.25B per year from social media-enabled cybercrime. […]

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