Online black markets are now using tactics that mirror legitimate business, including satisfaction guarantees and tutorials.
Online black markets are now using tactics that mirror legitimate business, including satisfaction guarantees and tutorials.

Given all the nefarious activity on the internet today, it comes as no surprise that online underground markets are booming, but a new study shows that the black market has adopted many traits of the legitimate marketplace, including offering hacker tutorials and 100 percent satisfaction guarantees.

In the Hacker Markets Report 2014, researchers at Dell SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit (CTU) found that hackers took “a cue from legitimate business” and “figured out that not only could they make money performing services, but they could make a little extra money teaching others.”

CTU Director of Malware Research Joe Stewart expressed surprise at that finding in a Monday email correspondence with SCMagazine.com. “What surprised [us] this year is not only the jump in the number of hackers selling payment cards and other stolen credentials, but the big increase in the number of hackers going the extra mile to make sure they are providing their clients with excellent customer service and live, high-value credit cards and other data,”said Stewart. With so many “vendors” of stolen information “jumping into the game” sellers were forced “to adjust their business model, just like any legitimate business must do when the competition gets fierce.”

As a result, the Dell SecureWorks researchers found that promises like “'100% Satisfaction Guarantees' or ‘Your Product will be Replaced' and ‘Price Cuts and Freebies for Repeat Customers and Large Purchases' is definitely one of the new trends,” he added.

Manual tutorials sell for around $30 while, the report noted, “individual training tutorials can run as low as $1.”

Stewart and fellow researcher SecureWorks Network Analyst David Shear called out another significant trend. The number of hackers selling premium cards rose, though the report noted that increase was not surprising given the number of breaches reported in 2014 and the resultant flood of compromised credit and debit cards. Platinum and Gold MasterCards with Track I and Track II data are currently selling for about $35 each, the researchers found, while Premium Visas cost $23.

Of course, malware is on tap and plentiful in 2014, though prices have dropped significantly—the going rate for remote access trojans (RATs) is $20-$50 while last year's prices ranged from $50-$250.