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Symantec monitored user chats on IRC to compile a massive report giving statistics on the thriving black market of illegal internet activity.  (Source: Symantec)

Symantec also compiled a list of pirated software sales. Games topped the list in total downloads, while multimedia software came out on top for net revenue. The U.S. was the biggest uploader of pirated software, by far.  (Source: Symantec)
One of security's leading firms say that crooks are striking it rich in an underground market and becoming increasing cohesive

You hear about it on the news every day -- criminals and profiteers have made the internet into a war zone.  From bank intrusions, to assaults by massive botnets, to coordinated attacks by foreign nationalists, there seems to be no end in sight to cybercrime.

Indeed, the internet, according to Symantec, is becoming the high-crime district of the next century as hackers find themselves part of a thriving market with little fear of serious repercussions if they play it by the book.

The Symantec Report on the Internet Underground Economy, to be released today, details the hale and hearty internet black market.  A keystroke logger might run you $23, a host for your phishing scheme $10.  If you want a botnet, it will cost you $225.  Want a tool to crack bank security using a known vulnerability?  It will cost an average of $740, and could cost you as much as $3,000 for a good one.  However, for both the buyer and the seller, the reward for online crime is proving to be equally lucrative, according to Symantec's report.

For over a year, from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008, Symantec monitored cybercriminals on IRC channels and internet forums.  Through the extensive research, they generated one of the most cohesive pictures of the modern state of internet crime, including the tools used, the average prices, and even the flow of stolen financial information.

Credit card information was the most commonly requested good or service, accounting for approximately 30 percent of sales.  Bank account credentials were a hot seller, priced anywhere from $10 to $1,000 depending on the amount of money in the account and where it was located.

Apparently cybercrime does pay; Symantec found that sellers' total goods had a combined sales price of around $275M USD.  Adding in the extra income from emptying victims' accounts and maxing their credit cards, this total could soar to a $7B USD business.

Aside from tracking hackers and cyberthieves, the study also tracked another form of illicit internet activity -- software piracy.  The study tracked sales of pirated software between July and December.  The most commonly pirated type of software was desktop games, followed by utility applications and then multimedia software, such as photo editors, 3D animation, and HTML editors.

It appears that people within the U.S. are making most of the money off the sale of pirated software.  Of the underground sales, 41 percent were uploaded by people within the U.S., with Romania a distant second with 13 percent.  North America had by far the largest underground economy of servers.

One intriguing trend that Symantec noted was the rise of cybergangs in Russia and Eastern Europe.  These gangs typically consist of acquaintances met online and in IRC chats and were much more coherent and aggressive than their western counterparts.  For this reason Russia has often been cited as a haven for illegal internet activity.

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By isorfir on 11/24/2008 2:41:27 PM , Rating: 5
This may be true, but it’s hard to take it seriously when it it’s presented from a company that directly profits from “protecting” us from these activities.

“Hey, I just wrote a report about the increase in bombs. Would you like to buy this bomb detector?”

RE: Fish
By Truxy on 11/24/2008 3:16:32 PM , Rating: 4
Agreed, and further, what software pirate pays for downloading pirated games/software? I don't get how they figured people were paying $50 to download a pirated copy of a game or software. Are they saying people are stupid enough to go into IRC and pay for a pirated piece of software thinking that it's a fully legal copy? I'm confused, it's a complete contradiction... way to jump on the bandwagon Symantec, a little too late and misguided though.

It appears that people within the U.S. are making most of the money off the sale of pirated software.

RE: Fish
By tastyratz on 11/24/2008 4:30:27 PM , Rating: 2
Whats happening is Joe Schmoe is going online, and finding a website offering a copy of photoshop in downloadable form for only $40. He generally thinks "boy that's cheap I recon I can get it there"

The majority of computer users aren't savy enough to figure out keygens/cracks/patches/etc. - nor know where to look for them. When these sites are found through a google search they just look like a really good deal to them.

RE: Fish
By inighthawki on 11/24/2008 4:36:05 PM , Rating: 2
I think they mean more along the lines of pirating a copy of photoshop and selling it to people for like $30. Or even selling desktop computers with pirated copies of windows, which then allow them to make profits by not paying for windows in the first place.

RE: Fish
By Diesel Donkey on 11/24/2008 4:39:16 PM , Rating: 2
People who don't know any better will buy from a fairly legit looking "discount" software vendor. My own father bought a copy of Adobe Acrobat Pro from one of these online stores, and he paid about $65 for it, I think. Of course the confirmation e-mail he received was written in broken English and the software was obviously (to me) the same cracked version you would find on the Pirate Bay or something. Without realizing it, he paid a pirate to do his dirty work for him.

RE: Fish
By Truxy on 11/25/2008 9:01:08 AM , Rating: 2
Fair enough, but from the article they didn't mention anything like that. If they did base their data on it I think they should have mentioned it. What they said was:
For over a year, from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008, Symantec monitored cybercriminals on IRC channels and internet forums.

In my opinion anyone who uses IRC to find software knows what they're there for... they won't be getting tricked into buying false copies.

Symantec is also grouping software pirates into the same group of people who steal identities and drain unsuspecting peoples bank accounts. Fear mongering at its best.

RE: Fish
By Diesel Donkey on 11/26/2008 12:48:36 AM , Rating: 2
OK, now I see where you're coming from. Good point.

RE: Fish
By StraightPipe on 11/24/2008 5:05:34 PM , Rating: 2
this report is soooo misleading.

symantec first talks about how much money pirates are making off software, then claim 40% of it is DL'd right here in the US.

But that implies that the people in the US are actually paying to DL software. They also come accross as implying that your average pirate is selling this crap.

I think it's time we stop calling casual file sharers "pirates" and leave that term for people who rape, pilage, and steal (or actually make money off someone else's works).

Obviously if you're burning DVD's and selling them you are a pirate.

If your watching DVD's and deleting them (or storing them for later use) you're not a pirate, you're an American.

You're one of the many who are fedup with the evil companies charging $1400 for Photoshop suites, $30 for a freaking BluRay Movie, and $60-80 for a video game. You're one of the many people smart enough to know better than forking over your hard earned money for all this crap.

RE: Fish
By cubby1223 on 11/24/2008 11:11:57 PM , Rating: 1
No, you are a pirate.

If you believe prices are too high, then you don't buy them, you don't download them . And if you still do, then accept the title of pirate and stop yer bitching.

RE: Fish
By Myg on 11/25/2008 6:57:03 AM , Rating: 2
He just feels hes entitled to it...

RE: Fish
By Alexstarfire on 11/26/2008 2:20:38 AM , Rating: 2
I really don't think that was his point. I think his point is to say that while many Americans do some casual pirating it's not them that's causing the "big problems." I do find it funny that they say games are a very small portion of the losses they calculated. That's not to say that they couldn't have just found the places where multimedia piracy is more common though.

Anyways, he was just trying to say that those that sell the pirated software by the thousands are the ones that cause all of the problems, ie China.

RE: Fish
By SavagePotato on 11/24/2008 3:27:51 PM , Rating: 3
That's the truth, one of the richest "online crooks" is Symantec.

Every day I curse Symantec as joe users call in in droves wondering why their computer is slow and their internet doesn't work after having just installed norton 360 or norton this or that.

I think they named it norton 360 because it F*#^'s you from 360 degrees at the same time.

"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller

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