Published on November 9, 2023, 3:30 am

Recent research by cybersecurity company NordVPN reveals that approximately 10,000 individuals in Singapore have fallen victim to online identity theft. These stolen identities are then sold on bot markets for an average price of SG$8. This concerning trend highlights the pressing need for increased cybersecurity measures in the country.

Compared to other Asian countries, this number is particularly high. For example, Japan experienced 13,000 cases of online identity theft, but considering the significantly larger number of internet users in Japan, the proportion in Singapore is much higher.

Bot markets are online platforms where hackers sell data that they have obtained through data-harvesting malware. The types of data sold include logins, cookies, digital fingerprints, and other pieces of information that collectively form a person’s digital identity.

This growing threat has already impacted millions of people worldwide, with cybercriminals selling webcam snapshots, screenshots, up-to-date logins, cookies, and digital fingerprints. What differentiates bot markets from other dark web marketplaces is their ability to centralize a large amount of personal data about an individual. Moreover, once the bot has been sold to a buyer, the seller guarantees ongoing updates as long as the victim’s device remains infected.

At NordVPN, Marijus Briedis (the CTO) comments on this alarming situation: “A simple password is no longer worth money to criminals when they can buy logins, cookies and digital fingerprints in one click for just eight Singapore dollars.” This statement underscores the shift in focus for cybercriminals towards acquiring comprehensive sets of personal data rather than merely exploiting weak passwords.

The research conducted by NordVPN analyzed three major bot markets: Genesis Market, Russian Market, and 2Easy. All three markets were active and accessible on the surface web at the time of evaluation. The investigation into bot markets was carried out in collaboration with independent third-party cybersecurity incident researchers.

Interestingly, certain types of malware have been identified as particularly effective at stealing data. These include RedLine, Vidar, Racoon, Taurus, and AZORult.

Bot markets provide hackers with an easier route to exploit victims’ data. Even an inexperienced cybercriminal can gain access to someone’s Facebook account using stolen cookies and digital fingerprints, enabling them to bypass multi-factor authentication. Once logged in, a hacker can deceive the victim’s friends by sending malicious links or requesting money transfers. They may also post false information on social media feeds, leveraging stolen autofill form data or device screenshots to make their actions appear more credible.

The consequences of this type of identity theft extend beyond the individual level. Sophisticated criminals leverage the acquired data to launch phishing attacks specifically aimed at businesses. By impersonating employees of targeted companies, these criminals seek financial gain or aim to damage a company’s reputation.

In order to safeguard against such threats, NordVPN CTO Marijus Briedis advises individuals to use antivirus software at all times. Additionally, employing password managers and file encryption tools can provide further protection by reducing the amount of data accessible to criminals in the event that a device becomes infected.

So what types of information do hackers sell on bot markets? The research conducted by NordVPN found that stolen data includes screenshots and webcam snapshots of users’ devices. Furthermore, logins and credentials from various platforms such as Google (720 thousand), Microsoft (654 thousand), and Facebook (647 thousand) were discovered on these markets. Additionally, hackers obtain stolen cookies (667 million), digital fingerprints (81 thousand), and autofill forms (538 thousand).

These findings shed light on the urgent need for improved cybersecurity practices among individuals and organizations alike in order to safeguard personal information from falling into the wrong hands.

In conclusion, with cases of online identity theft rising rapidly, it is crucial for community members and businesses alike to prioritize cybersecurity measures. By implementing robust protective measures such as antivirus software, password managers, and file encryption tools, individuals can significantly reduce the risk of falling prey to cybercriminals. Additionally, raising awareness about these bot markets and their activities can help prevent further exploitation of personal data. By taking proactive actions, Singapore and other nations can create a safer digital environment for everyone.

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