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A cybercrime boss has offered a Ferrari to the hacker who can come up with the best online scam, according to a European law enforcement official.
Speaking to the Independent on Sunday, Troels Oerting, the head of the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), said that a video was posted on the so-called dark net, an encrypted network that ensures users' anonymity, offering lavish rewards for young technological talent.
"A kingpin will offer a Porsche or a Ferrari to sub-groups who earn the most money," said Oerting, who added that the video was shot from a "car showroom, with a couple of blondes and a guy saying: those who make most money can get this car".
He warned that the threat from cyber criminals was so serious that it could result in the creation of a new two-tier Europe, in which the wealthy can afford the increasingly expensive technology necessary to ensure cyber security, while the unprotected poor are robbed by cyber criminals and hit with fines by banks no longer able to cover their losses.
"We have 28 different legislations but we have one new crime phenomenon," he said. "If you're rich you live in a nice place with a fence around it with CCTV, but if you're poor…. On the internet, some will be able to protect, some will not."
Oerting said that 85% of cybercrime is now carried out by hackers based in eastern Europe, where law enforcement has been unable, or in the eyes of some unwilling, to halt their activities.
He spoke of the difficulty of bringing the criminals to account.
"They are very, very good at locating themselves in jurisdictions that are difficult for us. If we can pursue them to arrest, we will have to prosecute by handing over the case," said Oerting. "Even if they will do it, it's a very cumbersome and slow process. You can wait until they leave the country, then get them. That's a comparatively small volume. The police ability stops at the border. We are also seeing signs of movement to African countries when the broadband is getting bigger. We will probably see more from places we don't want to engage with."
Last year Dmitriy Smilianets, 29, and Vladimir Drinkman, 32, were arrested in the Netherlands accused of being involved in a hacking ring that stole the details of approximately 130 million credit cards from the systems of major US retailers, in what is believed to be the largest online fraud in US history.
Smilianets was extradited to the States to face charges, Drinkman is still battling extradition.
To show how sophisticated crime gangs had become, he cited the case of one which bought five debit cards with a $500 limit, then hacked into computers to convert them into credit cards with no upper limit.
It then distributed replicas of the cards, which were used to withdraw of total of $45 million from cash machines across the world, including Britain.
"In real cybercrime, [we're going after] the people who develop and distribute the malware. We are trying to find them and identify them. It's like cutting the snake's head off. But there are a lot of heads, and they grow back very quickly," he said.
"Organised crime has not just embraced this but integrated cybercrime into its business."