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How Cybercriminals Spend Their Money

By Ciara Noonan | 3 minute read

In a previous blog post, we examined how spammers make their money. Now we’re seeing how they spend it.

A new study titled Into The Web of Profit highlights the growth and evolution of cybercriminal behavior. The study, conducted by Dr. Michael McGuire on behalf of Bromium delves deep into the world of cybercrime and criminals, examining where the illicitly-obtained money is being spent.

The study revealed that 30% of cybercriminals invest their revenue into value holdings such as property, art and wine; 20% on drugs and the sex industry; 20% on reinvestment into cybercrime, 15% to attain status or to impress others and a final 15% on immediate needs such a household necessities and bills.

Addressing these stats, Dr. McGuire recalls one cybercriminal in the UK: “who made around $1.2 million per year, spent huge amounts of money on a trip to Las Vegas, where he claimed to have gambled $40k and spent $60k hiring sports cars so that they could “arrive in style” to casinos and hotels.”

The researcher also spoke about the ease with which cybercriminals are able to spend their illegal funds, “It’s alarming how easily cybercriminals are able to spend their illicit gains—there is an ever-growing market that is almost tailor-made for cybercriminals to make these ostentatious purchases with little to no regulation oversight.”

“If cybercrime was a country it would have the 13th highest GDP in the world”
– Dr. Michael McGuire, IntoThe Web of Profit

Into The Web of Profit
examines the booming cybercrime economy in great detail, revealing that $1.5 trillion in profits have been acquired with links to drug production, human trafficking and terrorism.

Interestingly, this is exactly how Dr. McGuire describes cybercrime: as an economy.  “a hyper-connected range of economic agents, economic relationships and other factors now capable of generating, supporting and maintaining criminal revenues at an unprecedented scale.”

Dr. McGuire breaks down this figure showing that $860 billion is linked to illicit and illegal online markets; $500 billion in theft of trade secrets/IP; $160 billion in data trading, $1.6 billion in crimeware-as-a-service and $1 billion in ransomware.

The study also reveals that platform companies such as Uber and Amazon have inspired the cybercrime economy, with Dr. McGuire describing it as a “monstrous double of the legitimate information economy.” Not only is the cybercrime economy imitating these legitimate business models in illicit ways, it is also outperforming a number of them.

Now that we have seen what cybercrime is gaining in revenue, what is it costing the world in losses? Well, Cybercrime Ventures have predicted that the by 2021, cybercriminal activities could cost the world as much as $6 trillion annually, doubling the 2015 figure of $3 million.

With cybercrime profits soaring to $1.2 trillion and predictions that cybercrime activities could cost the world as much as $6 trillion annually by 2021, it’s more important than ever that businesses take measures to protect their networks from potential cyber threats.

Learn more about how ransomware affects businesses and how you can stay protected here.

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