Exposing the dark web coronavirus scammers

Kurtis Minder, co-founder and CEO of GroupSense, explains why the coronavirus has been big business for bad actors.

Exposing the dark web coronavirus scammers

Dan Patterson, a Senior Producer for CBS News and CNET, interviewed GroupSense co-founder and CEO Kurtis Minder about what people should be aware of when it comes to coronavirus-related scams. The following is an edited transcript of the interview.

Dan Patterson: Kurtis Minder works for GroupSense, and they have been tracking some of the most outrageous coronavirus scams. Kurtis, what are you seeing right now that people need to pay attention to?

Kurtis Minder: Well, as you know, the stimulus money was allocated and when the bad guys saw it, they wanted to take advantage. What we noticed on the dark net was almost immediately a series of schemes and fraud schemes perpetrated toward the banks, the small business administration, and the other agencies that were affected by the stimulus money.

You see a combination of insiders who have access to some of the bank's internal processes. You see people who say, 'hey, look, I'm a middle manager at a bank at a nationwide bank who has access to approving these types of loans. If you send in certain types of applications, they actually provide the templates. We can get you approved with the SBA loans.' 

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What they're using as seed data for these particular loan applications is stolen private information, PII data, of individuals on the dark net. They're kind of combining both the insider threats with the stolen PII data, combining that to make an effective fraud scheme against the government.

They wasted no time--it was almost immediate when we started seeing these pop up. In addition to the fraud schemes, we're also seeing people basically selling fraud kits to help people put in certain applications with certain agencies and things like this. We're just tracking which ones seemed to be more realistic and effective versus which ones are kind of pie in the sky stuff, but there's some real threats.

It spells out everything from the internal process of the organization that the scheme would be propagated against, including all of the necessary forms and then usually supplies the data associated with those forms. They would help you actually assume an identity. They package that all together into a nice package so that the actual person who buys the fraud kit doesn't actually have to be a sophisticated hacker. It could be a pretty normal person who knows how to use the Tor browser to get on the dark net. It's sort of dumbing down the sophistication of the folks who can take advantage of the scheme.

The most effective solution against fraud is having some awareness of where the seed data from the fraud is coming from. What enables fraud is information. Having an understanding of the fraud schemes that are being perpetrated, how they're being perpetrated, and working those into the anti-fraud process on the bank side and on the agency side is really the best way to combat that. 

As you know, the folks who are perpetrating this on the dark net are largely anonymous, so it's pretty hard to attribute those to an individual. Law enforcement, I believe, is aware--there's not a whole lot they can do about it at the moment, so it's really about the anti-fraud programs.

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GroupSense co-founder and CEO, Kurtis Minder. 

Image: TechRepublic