How Cybercriminals Steal Money by Neil Daswani (Full Transcript)

Full Text of How Cybercriminals Steal Money by Neil Daswani at Google Tech Talks. This presentation event took place on June, 16 2008.

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: MP3 – How Cybercriminals Steal Money


Neil Daswani – Co-director, Stanford Advanced Security Certification Program

My name is Neil Daswani. I’m a security engineer here at Google. And today I’m going to be talking about how cyber criminal steal money. I’m going to be talking specifically about how cyber criminals use various types of web application vulnerabilities to steal money. And I’m going to start with simple examples and then I’ll go to more complicated examples.

In the course of my talk, I’m may refer to many resources, presentations, reports, books, certification, courses, et cetera. Links to those are all going to be available at my site at And at the end of the talk, I’ll be also be giving out couple free copies of security book that I published but you’ll have to answer some trivia questions to get those at the end of the talk.

Before I go ahead and get started, the one additional thing that I wanted to mention is that, given that this is a security talk, if you have any Google specific questions, I’m going to ask you to hold them until the end of the talk, until we stop taping and then you can ask those. But if you have general questions about the presentation or some of the techniques, then I’d be happy to take those either at the middle of –in the middle of the talk or at the end of the talk before or before we stop video taping.

So, let me go ahead and get started. One of the major shifts that occurred over the past three or four years is that the profile of the attackers has changed. So, up until about three or four years ago, when people used to write worms and viruses, they would typically want to — just make names for themselves. They would release their worms out there, it would cause lots of traffics and servers would come down, some pact would get deployed and the game would be over.

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But the big shift that’s occurred over the past three or four years is that as more and more commerce has started taking place on the internet and as more businesses have started making more money from that commerce activity, the bad guys want to get their share. And so, their end goal is money, actual money. And so, in many of the attacks that I’ll talk about, in the examples that I’ll present, I’ll tell you how these bad guys are working to get at money.

Now, the bad guys may have a set of intermediate goals that may help them get to that money. And so, some of the intermediate goals, for instance, are data theft, they’ll steal identity information, they’ll steal credit card information, they may decide to conduct extortion. So they will launch a denial-of-service attack against a website at say, 8:30 AM, to the point that it’ll take down all that bank servers. They will send in a ransom note to the bank. They will say, “Please pay us X thousands of dollars or we’re going to shut down your servers. By the way, if you check your web server logs at 8:30, you’ll notice that all your web servers were down so I’m not kidding.” And– so extortion’s another goal.

Another goal to make money is to distribute malware. Once the bad guys distribute malware, they can then do all kinds of things with the compromised machines, assemble them into botnets and/or do what they would please with those botnets. So, there’s a number of intermediate goals. To give you a concrete example of such a organized crime networks — so I mentioned that the attacker profile has shifted from amateurs to professionals that want to make money and in many cases those professionals are very organized. It is their full-time job to attack sites. The bad guys, in some cases, will hire other people as mules to transfer money from one place to the other.

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So, it’s an extensive organized network. We’re not fighting against amateurs anymore. One example of such an organized crime network is the Russian Business Network. If you’ve heard of botnets like Storm which have compromised anywhere from a million to five million machines, depending upon who you want to believe, the real number is probably closer to a million, million and a half. They’re responsible for these types of botnets. Storm for instance is a pair-to-pair based botnets that can be used for denial of service, key-logging, pretty much whatever — whatever one would like. The bad guys will rent out the machines on those botnets. They’ll say, “Hey, I have a botnet. I have these many machines. I’ll rent them to you for X cents per day and you give me a binary, I’ll put whatever binary you give me on those machines and farm them out.”

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