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Cyber Crime PLC.

What image do you think of when you think of cyber criminals?

Do you picture the usual ‘stock image’ of a hooded figure, alone and surrounded by code, with his face hidden from view? Or how about an image like the one used above?

The hooded-hacker image shows the stereotypical cyber criminal, operating alone and probably how the general public see it. But as the cybercrime industry changes, that picture of a limited, individual threat is perhaps outdated.

The industrialisation of cybercrime has been happening for some time, with Forbes magazine recently estimating that the cybercrime industry was worth around $77bn in 2015 and may be worth up to $170bn by 2020.

Recently however, we at 2-sec have seen how the cybercrime industry has gone through another upgrade. It has, dangerously, become more corporate.

Cybercrime organisations are now starting to behave more like corporate entities. Having previously worked in secret and alone, gangs are starting to work together. They are starting to develop cooperative relationships and information sharing platforms. Instead of everyone within a cybercrime gang working as a loose collective, they now operate in vertical silos. They have tiers of ’employees’, with  those at a lower level not aware of who is at the upper levels, so if anyone gets caught, they can be efficiently cut loose from the organisation and the rest carry on.

Some of the more advanced organisations even have employee management structures, and efficiency restructures. 2-sec has seen evidence that some cybercrime organisations even have their own recruitment and HR teams who manage the wellbeing of their people like any lawful firm would do. We have also seen how the language being used on forums by cybercrime gangs to describe their operations has become identical to that used by executives within businesses.

The effect of this corporatisation is that methods have become more refined. Attacks that are now based on shared intelligence have become more likely to succeed. With the addition of more efficient management structures the already low risk of being caught, has decreased even further.

So whilst the typical hooded figure image does look good when making a presentation, perhaps it’s time to retire it, and replace it with the other type of usual stock image, of a corporate-looking team having a business meeting.


2-sec is a leading provider of security consulting services. These include penetration testing, PCI DSS, Cyber Essentials, PA DSS, virtual CISO and training & awareness.