The current coronavirus pandemic has brought a lot of socioeconomic consequences in its wake. While a host of these impacts were predicted by economic experts across various jurisdictions, few people would think that a global health crisis will advance the cybercriminal world.
Experts have observed the expansion of darknet-hosted cybercriminals in what has been inferred as a newly-seen pandemic popularity.
Indeed, in light of the observed ramifications that the COVID-19-related restrictions have brought, it is no surprise that the resultant economic pressures have driven a significant chunk of the global populace to cybercrime.
The Demand for Site Moderators
Digital Shadows, the renowned dark web monitoring gurus, published a website post to report findings that they made from their quick analysis of cybercriminal forums in the COVID-19 era.
In a nutshell, the researchers detected signs of a sudden rise in new entrants to cybercriminal forums. In addition, the experts noted a shared demand for additional moderators to help notable platforms cope with the sudden increase in user traffic.
In April 2020, barely a month since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, the admin in charge of the English-language cybercriminal forum Nulled advertised that the platform was hiring two “trial moderators” – who would assist the platform adapt to its growth. The admin’s announcement intimated that the community had registered fast growth amid the coronavirus pandemic, an aspect that called for “additional assistance” from new recruits.
Also in the same month, another English-language cybercriminal platform, CrackedTO, made a similar announcement. The forum’s admin, who made a strikingly indistinguishable announcement to the one written by Nulled’s admin, cited the need for hiring new trial moderators and connected the same to “recent events”.
At a first glance, the fact that two separate cybercriminal forums have sent out a call to new recruits to fill up moderator roles gives a string indicator that the cybercriminal world is thriving in the COVID-19 era.
Both admins mentioned the rapid growth of their individual communities amid the pandemic, which created the emergent need for the forums to seek additional moderators. Notably, it appears that the forums are treating the recent spike in users as a permanent situation if their estimations are anything to go by.
Furthermore, Digital Shadows noted that most forum admins have similar expectations from prospective moderators. It turns out that knowledge of the Russian language is the main prerequisite, an aspect that reflects on the fact that most forums happen to be Russian cybercriminal hotbeds.
Otherwise, some admins required applicants to possess significant cybercriminal experience before they would be considered to the posts.
In Brief – Understanding the Role of Moderators
While specific moderator tasks vary from one platform to the next, these persons are generally charged with the responsibility of ensuring the smooth running of a forum. Some of the universal moderator functions include the implementation of forum rules, issuance of warnings and the punishment of deviant members.
In addition, forum moderators are also in charge of user engagement, in terms of answering queries and organizing content within a website. The necessary deletion of irrelevant posts is also an important function prescribed to cybercriminal site moderators to ensure that only meaningful posts see the light of day.
Importantly, moderators play a big role in keeping scamming posts at bay in order to protect the interests of a particular community. They also perform an arbitration function whenever such is required of them.
Otherwise, to conclude, we may all expect that the adverse effects of the global public health crisis will beget lasting effects as far as the illicit darknet economy is concerned – we all need to be prepared for what’s to come.