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Living in the Age of the Internet Gangster (Part One of Three): Following a Basic Business Model

Over the past several years, Internet security firms have discovered strong connections to gangs in Eastern Europe that have worldwide reach and operate with seeming impunity. Today's Internet criminals have extended the turf of what law-enforcement agencies have traditionally called the Mafia.

Welcome to the age of the Internet gangster. Gone are the days when young computer nerds sat alone in their rooms figuring out how to break in to their schools' computer systems to change grades. Also fading into nostalgia are the times when hackers teamed up with small-time hoods to pull off credit-card scams that victimized local banks.

The days of spammers, phishers, and identity thieves, the typical culprits of today's online crime stories, are upon us. These criminals have created their own syndicates to invade your computers and crack your company's network security..

Over the past several years, Internet security firms have discovered strong connections to gangs in Eastern Europe that have worldwide reach and operate with seeming impunity. Today's Internet criminals have extended the turf of what law-enforcement agencies have traditionally called the Mafia. These Internet bad guys have adapted to new modes of crime, turning from numbers and narcotics rackets in the mid-20th century to Internet identity theft and denial-of-service (DOS) attacks.

Today's Internet hooligans follow a basic business model, according to Andrew Jaquith, senior analyst at the Yankee Group. While the size of the criminal organization might vary, the basic network-crime process involves four levels of expertise.

It starts with (1.) vulnerability checkers. These computer engineers look for entries into corporate networks. Once an opening is located, specialists create custom-written software to maximize the vulnerability. Then (2.) other specialists get into the act to use the compromised systems as a base to locate other vulnerable computers. As a collection of compromised computer systems is established, (3.) other programmers write software to place all the compromised computers under the control of (4.) a master cybercriminal, the fourth actor in the chain.

The result of this strategy is what computer security experts identify as a drastic upsurge in the intensity and caliber of network attacks. Internet crime lords passed a watershed of sorts one year ago, Jaquith said. "It was at that point that viruses, Trojans, and spam started to be linked with monetary payouts," he said.

Before last year, spam, adware, and spyware antics were relatively innocuous, being little more than an inconvenience to computer users. "But 12 to 18 months ago, the folks that did these things realized that they could generate e-mail spam and martial denial-of-service bots for extortion purposes," he said.

The term "botnet" is slang for a network of remotely controlled computers that carry out instructions from one or more hackers. The newest viruses circulating on the Internet are able to scan a potential host computer for vulnerabilities, then take over that computer and adapt to its environment, propagating itself by connecting through the Internet to other potential hosts. The more compromised computers there are linked together, the more valuable the botnet becomes.

Given the existence of botnets that consist of thousands of personal and enterprise computers, many Internet security experts are convinced that Internet criminals are developing their own hierarchy, from traditional street runners or soldiers to a cadre of crime captains who report to higher-up dons.

"We hear that botnets are rentable by the hour now," said Jaquith, who pointed out that botnets have become hot commodities for Internet crime families. "That phenomenon is certainly real," he said.

To protect yourself, you need an Internet security team of experts making sure that you, your family, and your business computer are always safe and secure. The best protection you can have in today's rapidly changing world of cyber-attacks is to have expert support for all your Internet security needs that will provide technical support without any hassles and without charging you extra fees. It will become even more critical than it is today as time goes on. You need to find your own personal team of experts to rely on. If you ever have a security problem, you will want to have a trusted expert you can call for professional help, without any hassles and extra costs!

Because cybercriminals are becoming smarter and more sophisticated in their operations, they are real threats to your personal security and privacy. Your money, your computer, your family, and your business are all at risk.

These cybercriminals leave you with three choices :

1. Do nothing and hope their attacks, risks, and threats don’t occur on your computer.

2. Do research and get training to protect yourself, your family, and your business.

3. Get professional help to lockdown your system from all their attacks, risks, and threats.

Remember: When you say "No!" to hackers and spyware, everyone wins! When you don't, we all lose!

© MMVII, Etienne A. Gibbs, MSWScience Articles, The Internet Safety Advocate and Educator

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Etienne A. Gibbs, Independent Internet Security Advocate and Educator, consults with individuals, small business owners, and home-business entrepreneurs regarding online protection against spyware, viruses, malware, hackers, and other pc-disabling cybercrimes. For more information, visit

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