The buyers and sellers converse cheerfully in the international language of commerce: negotiating prices, swapping samples, issuing quality assurances and loyalty discounts. One vendor, a Russian, offers a Chinese customer free translations of the product’s instruction manual; another promises “friendly technical support.”
It is here, in this polite, super-exclusive online marketplace, that the world’s most dangerous cybervillains plot to make your life a misery and get fabulously rich in the process. This is where your debit card PIN is bought and sold, your e-mail inbox engorged with spam, your identity touted to the highest bidder and the company you work for blackmailed or incapacitated.
From here, a rogue IT engineer can sell access to the tills of 50 stores or a Taiwanese factory worker can be bribed to install spy software in a dozen credit card readers. Botnets, trojans, worms — and worse — are fomented here.
Forums such as this, say analysts of cybercrime, have become the hubs of a multi-billion dollar global industry that in 2008 alone spirited nearly 300 million items of supposedly secure information from the internet.