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18 September 2012

Trust and Cybercrime

Trust is a universal emotion; even cybercriminal communities employ “trust” as a building block for their criminal empire. But would you trust someone who won’t reveal his identity to you? Even if the transactions are in millions?

A range of cybercrimes have developed in the last few decades, some are essentially online profit driven cybercrimes which occur in collaborations. The United States Department for Justice in their archives of press releases from 2010 have emphasised on the fact that trust is a primal factor among the cyber criminal community. General perception being that any cyber crime would be pertaining to hacking but there are further many crimes like extortion, online paedophilia, harassment, cyber terrorism and many more. The peculiarity of cybercrimes is that they have a certain need to advertise their skills rather than conventional crimes which require a certain degree of secrecy and discretion. The balance of trust along with anonymity needs to be maintained which is a contrast to general crimes. Reputation is primary in the world of cybercrime as reputation is what attracts offers from fellow criminals and also draws attention from the authorities. Again a delicate balance needs to be maintained in this regard.

There is another distinction between the conventional crimes and cyber crimes, that being of discretion, while in conventional crimes there is a very pressing need to go about ones business in a discrete and secretive manner but cyber crimes on the other hand requires one to advertise about ones capabilities and skill so as to attract customers or buyers and fellow criminals.

The FBI during the course of their investigation have used trust to be a major factor is appending criminals online. Again the mechanism involved is not a fool proof one because it is based on the psychology of the criminal. It may be able to gain trust from few while the cautious ones may never even fall within the radar of the authorities.

The irony is that in most of these forums the “trust” of the members in the forum is gained by providing compromising data of others, for example in one of these communities the new members have to submit 100 credit card details which will be verified by some member before they can become a part of the forum, this usually amounts to be a “trust test” providing a formal guarantee of the credentials of the person in question.

Another aspect rather intriguing about these cyber criminals is that they do not rebel against the concept of authority. They rather employ their own mechanism of extra-legal governance which keeps a check on the members and even the administrator of a forum. But again this method is not free from flaws as attaining a new identity is not a very difficult task online. It would be very simple for a person banished from a forum to assume a new name and rebuild his reputation. The only difficulty may be in building a new reputation but that is still possible.

The aspect of anonymity is both an advantage and disadvantage as with anonymity there is a less obvious threat from the law but at the same time to work with fellow criminals a method to pierce the veil of anonymity without actually discarding it has to be adopted.

Source: Trust in the world of cybercrime- Jonathan Lusthaus