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Cybercrime Profits Estimated at $1.5 trillion

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New criminal platforms and a booming cybercrime economy have resulted in $1.5 trillion in illicit profits being acquired, laundered, spent and reinvested by attackers.

This was one of the findings of a study commissioned by Bromium, a virtualisation-based endpoint security company.

Called ‘Into the Web of Profit’, the study was conducted by Dr Mike McGuire, senior lecturer in criminology at Surrey University, and draws from first-hand interviews with convicted cybercriminals, data from international law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, and covert observations conducted across the dark Web.

The Web of profit

According to Bromium, the study is one of the first studies to examine the dynamics of cybercrime by scrutinising revenue flow and profit distribution, instead of the mechanisms of cybercrime alone.

It looks at the cybercrime-based economy and the professionalisation of cybercrime. “This economy has become a self-sustaining system, an interconnected Web of profit that blurs the lines between the legitimate and illegitimate.”

Conservative estimates

The research shows cybercriminal revenues worldwide of at least $1.5 trillion, the same as the GDP of Russia, a number Bromium calls a ‘conservative estimate’. “If cybercrime was a country, it would have the 13th highest GDP in the world.”

This figure includes $860 billion made from illicit or illegal online markets, $500 billion from theft of trade secrets and intellectual property, $160 billion in data trading, $1.6 billion for Crimeware-as-a-Service, and $1 billion from ransomware.

According to the report, the dark economy is made up of a variety of operations, from large ‘multinational’ operations that rake in profits of over $1 billion, to SME-style entities where profits of between $300 00 and $50 000 are expected.

Platform criminality

In addition, the research revealed an emergence of ‘platform criminality’, mirroring the platform capitalism model employed by businesses such as Uber and Amazon, where data itself is the commodity. New criminality models are enabled by these platforms, which, in turn, fund broader scourges such as human trafficking, drugs and terrorism.

Gregory Webb, CEO of Bromium, says the report delivered ‘shocking insight’ into how profitable and widespread cybercrime really is.

“The platform criminality model is productising malware and making cybercrime as easy as shopping online. Not only is it easy to access cybercriminal tools, services and expertise, it means enterprises and governments alike are going to see more sophisticated, costly and disruptive attacks.”

A range of agents

The report also suggests that cybercrime shouldn’t be strictly compared to business, as by nature it is more like an economy, with a ‘hyper-connected range of economic agents, economic relationships and other factors’ that work together to generate, support and maintain criminal revenues at an ‘unprecedented scale’, says McGuire.

Because legitimate businesses and nation states are now profiting from cybercrime, the study believes there is now an interdependence between the legitimate and illegitimate economies. Organisations are acquiring data and competitive advantage from the dark economy, and using it as a tool for strategy, global advancement and social control, says Bromium.

“There is a range of ways in which many leading and respectable online platforms are now implicated in enabling or supporting crime (albeit unwittingly, in most cases),” says McGuire.

No hope of control

Ilia Kolochenko, CEO of web security company High-Tech Bridge, says the report is 100% right in saying that cybercrime has become a highly profitable and sustainable business that no government can hope to control.

However, he suggests that it may have missed some figures, because the most serious cybercrimes, such as nation-state attacks or offensive operations from large conglomerates against competitors, are rarely detected, yet alone exposed.

“Publicly accessible platforms in the dark Web have a lot of scam and fake ads intertwined with law enforcement honeypots, too,” adds Kolochenko.

And he says the fight against cybercrime isn’t getting easier. “Professional Black Hats usually have inconspicuous private platforms, lawfully hosted in AWS or Azure, with full encryption of all data. You cannot get access unless you are a long-standing and verified partner.

“Nothing is less certain than global cybercrime size and volume,” concludes Kolochenko.

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E-Business

Opera in Race to Acquire Nigeria’s Telnet

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Telnet Nigeria Limited, the Nigerian technology conglomerate, is near closing a deal to sell stakes in its mobile money business subsidiary, Paycom to the maker of popular Opera Mini browser, Opera Software, according to Technology Times.

 

According to the reports Telnet and Opera will this month sign the dotted lines of an agreement by which the Nigerian technology company sells controlling stakes in its fully-owned Paycom to the browser maker. That is barring any last-minute change.

 

Opera has been in exclusive negotiations with Telnet on the acquisition hoped to extend the footprint of its mobile payment platform, OPay (Opera Pay) into the Nigerian market as part of its African expansion strategy, people conversant with the situation told Technology Times on condition of anonymity.

 

With the deal sealed, Nigeria will be the next African market for the rollout of the OPay payment platform developed by Opera to let users shop and pay for services and products through their mobile or web browser.

 

Talks between the two companies have shifted into higher gear after the operating licence of Paycom was renewed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, the banking industry regulator that also oversees the mobile money sector.

 

Nigeria has issued licences to 21 companies to deliver mobile money services in the country and they have been directed to achieve a minimum capital base of N2 billion by CBN.

 

The banking industry regulator has also issued regulatory guidelines that defines the operating terrain rules as part of plans by the CBN towards “promoting a sound financial system in Nigeria.”

 

According to the CBN rules, Nigeria has adopted two models of mobile money services under which industry players operate:

 

The Bank-led Model: “This is a model where a bank either alone or a consortium of banks, whether or not partnering with other approved organizations, seek to deliver banking services, leveraging on the mobile payments system. This model shall be applicable in a scenario where the bank operates on stand-alone basis or in collaboration with other bank(s) and any other approved organization. The Lead Initiator shall be a bank or a consortium of banks.”

The Non-Bank led Model: “This model allows a corporate organization that has been duly licensed by the CBN to deliver mobile money services to customers. The Lead Initiator shall be a corporate organization (other than a deposit money bank or a telecommunication company) specifically licensed by the CBN to provide mobile money services in Nigeria.”

 

 

Meanwhile, the impending deal between Telnet and Opera is coming as the two entities are seen to be joining forces to advance Opera’s plans to extend its OPay platform into the Nigerian market by acquiring controlling stakes in Paycom.

 

PayCom Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of Telnet, which was granted licence by the CBN in August 2011 to operate in the mobile payment sector recently had its licence renewed by the banking sector regulator, a development that was to complement progress towards a deal, according to a Technology Times source.

 

The indications of the closed deal comes one year after Opera, the developer of the most popular mobile browser in Africa, announced its plan to invest N3 billion ($100 million) across Africa over two years.

Opera last year unveiled an ambitious plan to deepen its stakes in the emerging African internet ecosystem where the technology company “is planning to seek local partners to integrate value-added services, mobile payment and data bundling into its browser product.”

 

Opera said at the time that the alliance with local partners “will grant consumers access to quality content and services, giving them the ability to transact more easily on their mobile devices. The range of services to be added over the next 12 months will create a content and services hub that will provide African users with a truly unique experience.”

 

As part of the N30 billion African investments plan, Opera said that it plans expanding with new offices across select cities including Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, and also hire 100 people for these offices over the next three years.

 

Nigeria’s Telnet is a technology industry pioneer and leading player that is reputable as a factory for successful spin-offs that counts the likes of companies like Interswitch, the e-payment market leader; IPNX, a frontline ISP in the country, iTeco, a leading network business, alongside Paycom, among

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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NITDA Says MDAs Work in Silos, Neglect eGovernment

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Dr. Isa Pantami, Director General of NITDA

Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government in the country are operating in silos, thereby making nonsense of e-government policy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, directo-general, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), has said.

 

Pantami, at the opening ceremony of the Stakeholders’ Engagement on Nigeria’s e-Government Interoperability Framework (Ne-GIF) in Abuja, said that ‘’Silo e-Government systems would not help government deliver public services efficiently. Advanced phases of service innovation cannot be achieved without integrating many back-office functions.

 

‘’For instance, registering a Limited Guarantee Company in Nigeria requires visit to at least three institutions: CAC, FIRS, and Attorney General of the Federation physically and/or through their portals. However, the Nigerian government is becoming more complex and wide-reaching than ever before and citizens believe and expect that public services must be delivered effectively and at speed. This is inefficient, inconvenient, time consuming and makes citizens pay more’’, Dr Pantami said.

 

He said through robust e-Government applications, it is possible to make the transactions and get the service delivered on a single portal, adding that citizen-centered service delivery involves breaking up silos, integrating across agencies, innovating new ways of doing business, and creating a service-focused culture.

 

According to him, it has been proven that one of the strategic directions for e-government is to adopt a Whole-of-Government (WoG) approach for deriving expected value from IT.

 

He said WoG involves back-end offices re-engineering, consolidation and integration of business processes across government agencies to deliver effective and consolidated services through the front-end offices at an affordable cost.

 

‘’WoG is a deliberate path to attain Government Digital Transformation (GDT) we desire. GDT views Government as an entity by promoting the idea of ONE GOVERNMENT but still respect individual MDA’s mandates while providing government digital services.

 

‘’Fundamentally, e-Government or digital service delivery has three models or approaches: Government-to-Government (G2G), Government-to-Business (G2B) and Government-to-Citizens (G2C).

 

‘’Transforming G2G is the foundation for providing efficient digital services. It enables and drives the other delivery models.

 

‘’However, the workability of any G2G is determined by the level of IT systems integration and standardization considering the social, institutional, legal, economic and political systems of a particular country.

 

‘’The main difficulty in achieving advanced G2G is the interoperability requirements of IT systems of various government agencies. For instance, compliance with Executive Order 001 requires advanced G2G,” he said.

 

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GSMA Welcomes GDPR, Raises Concerns Over Inconsistencies in Privacy Regulations

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The GSMA, which represents the interests of nearly 800 mobile operators worldwide, who collectively serve more than 5 billion customers globally, welcomes the protection brought to consumers by Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

However, while this new regulation, which goes live on 25 May, strikes a balance between enabling industry to flourish and protecting the rights of individuals, mobile operators are deeply concerned by inconsistencies in the application of European privacy regulations that could risk consumers’ access to new communication services in the future.

John Giusti, Chief Regulatory Officer at the GSMA, explains: “Consumers should rightfully celebrate the new protections the GDPR brings them.

The GDPR is driving up standards of responsible data governance, not only in the EU, but also around the world, stimulating efforts to find a common ground for data privacy.

“The more compatible data privacy laws are with each other, the faster we can move to a world where countries allow personal data to flow relatively freely between them.

Consumers’ ability to benefit fully from the next wave of innovation, built on technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence (AI), will depend on this unhindered flow of data between countries.

“However, the benefits of GDPR could easily be undermined if the current regulatory imbalance between the telecommunications industry and other players in the digital world is not resolved.

Telecom operators are still subject to additional obligations vis-à-vis other digital players imposed by the ePrivacy Directive.

When the European Council shortly decides on their position on the proposal to replace the current directive with an ePrivacy Regulation (ePR), we must not ignore the impact of the ePR on both existing and future services that are critical to Europe’s digital growth.

“The specific obligations imposed by the European Commission’s current proposal for the ePR would be detrimental to the mobile industry’s ability to innovate and invest in future technologies, such as 5G, the Internet of Things, AI and big data.

Data privacy regulation is essential, but fair competition and consumer protection require the consistent application of privacy regulations.

“The current ePR proposal only allows the use of communications metadata under very limited circumstances, which could prevent the legitimate, unobtrusive use of data across a number of sectors, negatively impacting society and the European economy.

In contrast, the generally applicable GDPR strikes a better balance between the ability to innovate and the protection of people’s personal data. Its principles should therefore also be applied to processing metadata to allow telecoms operators to equally compete in a responsible way with other market players in the digital value chain.

“Europe needs greater alignment between the ePR and the GDPR to support individuals’ fundamental rights, while permitting technological developments and spurring investment.

Otherwise, this lack of consistency in European privacy regulation could harm consumers’ interests in the long term by denying them the potential benefits of new communications services in the future.”

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