Barely Legally

Confessions of a Moot Court Bailiff

Low-Stakes Crime

Advertising Age is the home of this eyebrow-raising story of what viruses are doing these days:

…the bad guys have grown far more sophisticated. Malware was once primarily used for banking fraud, but two-factor authentication (for example, when a bank asks you for a code from your cellphone before you can sign in on a new computer, or asks whether you really meant to send money to Uruguay) severely reduced its profitability. Then, the hackers moved to credit-card fraud, but the security on that front is now so good that you can buy thousands of active credit-card records for a few dollars, because they’re essentially worthless. Next up was Bitcoin mining, where hacked machines were used to unearth the crypto currency.

But that too became less profitable, leaving ad fraud as the most lucrative endeavor a cybercriminal can undertake today. “We’re at a point now where malware is being used principally for ad fraud,” Mr. de Jager said. Scary words for an advertising industry only starting to grasp the problem.

A few things here.

Firstly, I didn’t realize I could buy thousands of credit card numbers for “a few dollars.” I’ve been guarding mine like some kind of moron from the 20th century. Secondly, even the criminals running botnets can’t make money on Bitcoin. That seems odd.

Thirdly, there’s actually an economy of hackers who’ve decided that the best way to make money is to infect computers, open invisible web browser windows, and get paid to surreptitiously click ads on sites.