Just as you can use Taskrabbit to find someone to fix your kitchen cabinets, so too can you find a hacker to perform digital espionage or destruction.
Hackers are now offering their services online to the highest bidder, and officials are still scrambling to figure out how best to deal with this mounting cybersecurity issue.
Admiral Michael Rogers, the US’s Cyber Commander, has said that the US is working on new cyber-deterrence policies to stop hackers from even trying. At a recent event at George Washington University, he explained that the US has developed ways to tell hackers “you don’t want to go down the road and if you do, you need to know there is a price to pay.”
Despite new sanctions against cybercriminals, experts point to a snowballing black market for cyber exploits.
“There are multiple pages on the dark web where you can rent a hacker,” Chris Hadnagy, CEO of the penetration testing firm Social Engineer, told Business Insider. Hadnagy has a vast history of knowing the ins and outs of the nefarious cyber world as his firm has been hired by both huge companies and the government to find hacking vulnerabilities.
“It’s done through covert channels,” he explained, noting that his research had taken him to multiple sites where hackers are both selling their individual exploits as well as selling their expertise as a whole.
For example, some hackers have offered jilted boyfriends’ access to their girlfriends’ Instagram and emails, experts have told Business Insider. These sort of exploits have been around for 20+ years, but they are now becoming easier and easier to find.
“We see exploits,” Joe Loomis, the CEO and founder of the cybersecurity efficiency company Cybersponse, told Business Insider. “Some really nasty things.”
How the exploit market functions
Hackers frequently sell vulnerabilities, which give individuals mere knowledge of network problem. Governments and companies frequently turn to these underground marketplaces, hoping to be able to issue a patch to their network before bad actors notice and pounce. Another sort of exchanges have hackers selling specific exploits they built.
These transactions are performed under the cloak of anonymity, either in Internet Relay Chats — which is an anonymous messaging protocol — or via hacking forums. Skype is also a frequent method that hackers on forums turn to. While many hackers use the deep web, which requires complete anonymity for entry, other hackers sell their services in the open.
Experts who spoke with Business Insider mentioned hackers sharing their build exploits for free with other hackers. This creates a whole new and growing market for hacktivist groups to build and share their arsenal of cyberattacks.
Every expert was clear in their assessment: As these marketplaces grow in size and power, so too will the attacks. As for how big, there’s no way to know.
“I think [the hacker market is] bigger than we realise,” Hadnagy said, adding that “I don’t have a statistical number.”
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