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On the motivations and challenges of affiliates involved in cybercrime

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Kieron Ivy Turk.

The cybercrime industry is characterised by work specialisation to the point that it has become a volume industry with various “as-a-service” offerings. One well-established “as-a-service” business model is blackmarket pay-per-install (PPI) services, which outsource the spread of malicious programmes to affiliates. Such a business model represents the archetype of specialisation in the cybercrime industry: a mass of individuals, known as affiliates, specialise in spreading malware on behalf of a service. Extant literature has focused on understanding the scope of such a service and its functioning. However, despite the large number and aggregate effect of affiliates on cybercrime, little research has been done on understanding why and how affiliates participate in such models. This talk summarizes a study that depicts the motivations and challenges of affiliates spreading Android banking Trojan applications through a blackmarket PPI service. In short, we conducted a thematic analysis of over 6,000 of their private chat messages. The findings highlight affiliates’ labour-intensive work and precarious working conditions along with their limited income, especially compared to their expectations. Affiliates’ participation in cybercrime was found to be entangled between legal and blackmarket programmes, as affiliates did not care about programmes’ legal status as long as they yielded money. This study contributes to the literature by providing additional evidence on the downsides of work specialisation emerging from the cybercrime industry.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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