Keywords: Anonymity, child pornography, corruption, Covid-19, cryptocurrency, cyberwar, darknet, doxing, fraud, hacking-for-hire, hacktivism, organized crime, platform, ransomware, swatting
‘Cybercrime’ is used as an umbrella term and includes a variety of crimes enabled by or dependent on cyber-capabilities of the perpetrators. Their motivations are not essentially different from those in the offline-world: malicious, personal, political, profit-driven. Obviously the network infrastructure provides tools that make a difference: in speed, systemic refinement, seemless (borderless) communication and a new understanding of what distance means in those operations. Supposed anonymity unleashes specific energies. But how do cybercriminals cooperate?
Criminal conduct at one’s fingertips has its role models. Early hacker individuals and groups established a reputation for targeting secret service and military units. As online markets developed financial institutions, for instance, were forced to hire attackers as so-called ‘pentesters’, regardless of their affiliations, and thus, effectively, also employed undercover FBI agents. These blurry lines between crime and its legal counterparts came under scrutiny by researchers such as Jonathan Lusthaus, who delved into these networks, conducting extensive interviews with law enforcement officers, undercover agents, and cybercriminals (Lusthaus 2018). His work reveals the very fine-grained mechanisms of cooperation in this emerging industry.