For decades, the Internet has provided a platform for end users world wide to easily communicate with friends and family. Also providing the ability to conduct business and otherwise associate with other parties that might not normally occur over more traditional forms of communication.
As e-commerce and dot.coms continue to boom on the Internet, so does the lucrative enticement for profit through criminal activities. Well connected and often well funded criminal organizations are now moving operations to the Internet to increase their profit under the anonymity the Internet and itís users have to offer.
Most organized crime operations are very indiscriminate in their choice of illegal activities, which can range from simple theft to more sophisticated fraud schemes, often utilizing legitimate businesses as fronts for their illegal activities.
While some law enforcement agencies are quick to comment on the pending decline of organized crime families and their scams, other experts are suggesting that these entities are shifting or exploiting the new opportunities offered by the Internet. However, both agree at the growing rate that the overlap between the Internet and organized crime is, more mob influenced scams are likely to increase within the next few years.
While law enforcement and corporations tend to frown upon hiring convicted or inexperienced computer hackers, the mafia aggressively recruits them from where ever and when ever possible. Whether itís the newly graduated student being lured to a seeming legitimate business with a promising paycheck, or an experienced hacker looking to turn a hobby into profit, the trend involving organized crime seems to be growing.
Often the computer hacker, or hackers, are hired and trained to perform certain duties and are never actually notified of the criminal status of the duties they are performing. Since they are mere associates and not made members of the mafia families, they are usually left in the dark.
Other times, computer hackers are ícapturedí and/or forced to perform duties which benefit these criminal elements.
Often, the computer hackers themselves are victims of mafia related extortion and fear the exposure that would otherwise result in them being arrested, or otherwise Ďstrong armedí should they not perform certain tasks for mob.
The experience levels often include the nieve novice computer enthusiast to the most advanced computer hacker depending on the job needed to be done. Need a distributed denial of service attack on a legitimate business for an extortion racket?
Hire or contract the job out to a ton of novice script kiddies that are willing to put forth their talents that would otherwise frowned upon in the industry. Need a high profile money laundering, or online auction fraud scam? Hire more advanced computer hackers, who are already accustom to Omerta`, or the code of silence used by most organized crime. This makes for the perfect scapegoat and offers the mafia extra added insulation, should any individual be arrested. This way the focus will be on the hacker or group of hackers and not the actual criminal element financing the operation.
Other times more experienced computer hackers turn to organized crime for a variety of reasons. Sometimes for protection for prosecution, paying tributes if they operate from within a mob owned territory, or looking to turn a hobby in to a profitable profession.
While most never realize or understand the profitability behind a nice cache of stolen credit card numbers, MCI and Sprint long distance codes and calling card numbers, the mafia sees huge profits. With the manufacturing and mass reproduction abilities, the mob can easily net hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in a relative short period of time with minimal possibilities of the operation ever being noticed, let alone deemed as organized crime. The proceeds from these ventures can then be used to finance other operations.
Often the mafia utilize the computer hackers talent due to ease of use. More often then not the computer hacker, or group of hackers, are already well connected and established within their own communities, accustom to the code of silence, and are willing players in the field of crime already. Need a make shift scam site? Use an existing website or create your own which can easily be moved within hours at the most.
Add the ability to instant message your clients or unsuspecting victims and your back in business, often within a day. In addition, the advantage is often on the side of the bad guys due to the mere number of players involved in the crime or scam. For example, itís not uncommon for hacker groups to have 50+ members, all willing and able to run or operate a site which could conduct illegal activities.
This type of activity further complicates the process for law enforcement to obtain the documents and search warrants needed to actively investigate and pursue prosecution for the criminal activities being committed.
Furthermore, computer hackers tend to possess, or have access to, assets which interest organized crime. Credit card numbers, long distance codes, calling cards, information about others and tools which allow the computer hacker to enjoy their hobbies can easily net a profit for organized crime on the black market using standard business tactics.
Using hackers, organized crime could easily manipulate stocks, deposit or transfer funds in parts as opposed to one major transaction, extort legitimate businesses through computer intrusions , or denial of service attacks. In addition, computer hackers are often used to set up website posing or impersonating as other businesses to gain information, to sell stolen goods which would otherwise be hard to fence, and even the sales and distribution of pirated software, all for profit.
The Internet has dramatically extended and increased the opportunities for organized crime to operate, and to victimize a wider scope of individuals and companies they normally wouldnít have access to. While the techniques might change, the song remains the same. Profit, Profit, Profit at the expense of others. And rest assured, as more lucrative opportunities arise, so will the possible infiltration and illicit influence of organized crime.