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Cyber Crime Gangs Are Emulating The Organizational Structure of the Mafia

The prevalence of internet-based crime has been on a rapid uptick over the last year. Federal authorities attribute much of the rise in cyber crime on highly organized gangs that are capitalizing on the country's current state of economic turmoil.

Spam emails and illegitimate Web sites are being used to emulate banks, mortgage companies, and even agencies such as the IRS, FBI, and FDIC. Though the criminal techniques are varied, the goal is singular... to sideswipe the financial resources of unsuspecting individuals or businesses.

For several years now, cyber crimes have been blamed on well-establihed organized crime syndicates such as the Chinese Triads, the Russian Mafia, and the Japanese Yakuza. However, authorities are now just beginning to understand that a new generation of highly organized gangs have been quietly evolving in the background. These recently established enterprises were designed from the ground up to specialize in computer-based crimes and thereby exploit society's ever-growing reliance on computers.

Authorities have observed that the chain of command of a cyber crime gang is quite similar to that of a Mafia "family". Such a gang's hierarchy includes programmers with hacker skills, data salespersons, and managers, all serving under senior executive-level leadership. Often, such top leadership is isolated from direct contact with the vast majority of the syndicate's "soldier level" personnel.

A key to the security of a cyber crime organization is the compartmentalizing of the various work tasks. For example, when a person's credit card details are stolen, the details are sold by people other than those who misappropriated the data. And, the salespersonnel typically do not make use of the data themselves. Their specific job revolves around selling the vital information to others who will in fact directly exploit it.

The people operating within a given compartment often do not know the identities of other "staffmembers" who hold the same type of job within the enterprise. And, to an even greater extent, personnel from different compartments will typically not know the identities of each other... inspite of the fact that they interact frequently in the normal course of business.

Sales personnel market batches of credit card numbers and security codes with an average price of less than $20 for each card number/security code combination. However, higher value cards, such as platinum cards or corporate credit cards command prices that are several times higher than that.

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