To most, the world of cyber crime exists as a shadowy universe of hoodie-wearing hackers or nation state gangs pilfering identity data and hawking intellectual property (IP) on the dark web for big bucks. In reality, however, cyber crime has morphed into an economy in its own right, spawning new platforms and illicit marketplaces now generating close to $1.5 trillion in revenues every year.
The evolution of cyber crime from an overt criminal act or specific attack vector to a booming economy was the subject of a study conducted by Dr. Michael McGuire, senior lecturer in Criminology at the University of Surrey, in England. The Web of Profit research, presented at April’s RSA conference, makes a case that cyber crime is now a hyper-connected economy capable of generating and supporting revenue at an unprecedented scale. In fact, McGuire argues that the cyber crime economy is nearly a mirror image of contemporary capitalism, including the rise of disruptive business models built on platforms and a place where data reigns supreme as the commodity currency used for trade.
“Both the legitimate and illegitimate economies come together within an increasingly cyber-criminogenic world—one where the tools and cultures of information crime become blurred and interchangeable with the tools and cultures of an information society and vice versa,” writes McGuire in the 178-page report.