Though the final price for a cybercriminal's services is usually negotiated, personal attacks are the most expensive, says Comparitech.
The Dark Web is home to a smorgasbord of illegal and criminal products and services up for sale. And that certainly encompasses the area of cybercrime. From website hacking to DDoS attacks to custom malware to changing school grades, you can buy one of these services from a hacker for hire. But just how much do these types of items cost? A blog post published Tuesday by consumer website Comparitech examines the types of hacking services available on the Dark Web and scopes out their prices.
SEE: The Dark Web: A guide for business professionals (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
To conduct its analysis, researchers at Comparitech examined more than 100 listings from 12 different hacking services. The actual prices for many services are negotiated based on the time, scope, complexity and level of risk, according to Paul Bischoff, author of the post. But Comparitech was still able to find the average prices for many of these illicit services. The selling prices are normally listed in bitcoin, which Comparitech converted to U.S. dollars for its report.
The most expensive item on the menu was a personal attack, usually one involving defamation, legal sabotage or financial disruption. Changing school grades was the next priciest service. All of the hackers demand payment up front, though some promise a refund if the hack fails.
Most of the hackers for hire will accept a job only if they believe they can pull it off. One group found by Comparitech even says on its website: "In about 5-7% of cases, hacking is impossible." Most of the hackers say they can finish the work within 24 hours, though more advanced hacks could take days or weeks.
Hackers who specialize in personal attacks sell their services for $551 on average. A personal attack could include financial sabotage, legal trouble or public defamation. One tactic touted by a hacker is to frame the victim as a buyer of child pornography. A few hackers offer such services as "scammer revenge" or "fraud tracking" in which they will attack a scammer.
Students who want a higher grade can actually pay someone $526 on average to hack into a school system and alter their grades. Available for both grade schools and universities, this is one of the most common hacking services and one of the most expensive. As a sideline, some hackers also say they can steal the answers to future exams.
Website hacking costs on average $394 and includes attacks against websites and other services hosted online. One group cited by Comparitech said it could access an underlying web server or a website's administrative panel. Another group touted that it could steal databases and administrative credentials.
Computer and phone hacking
A computer and phone hacking service runs $343 on average. In this type of attack, the hacker breaks into the victim's PC or phone to steal data or deploy malware. The operating system doesn't seem to matter as they boast that they can access Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, BlackBerry or Windows Phone.
Social media account hacking
Hacking into a social media account costs on average $230. In this service, the hacker will spy on or hijack accounts from such platforms as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, Telegram, TikTok, Snapchat and Reddit. The malicious activity depends on the service. Criminals who hack into a victim's Facebook or Twitter account will often steal credentials to give the buyer full access to the account. Those who tap into an account from WhatsApp are likely to spy on messages or take screenshots.
Email hacking sells for $241 on average. In this activity, the hacker steals the victim's email password and then either gives that password to the buyer or breaks into the account to access data. In some cases, the criminal may set up an email forwarded process to get a copy of all the victim's emails.
Hackers who offer Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks charge on average $26 per hour, though prices vary based on the length and bandwidth of the attack. Some hackers will charge by the hour or even by the month to maintain an attack for as long as the buyer wants.
Beyond the priced, mainstream services, Comparitech said it found other more niche services.
Some hackers will break into a hospital's COVID-19 vaccine database to steal the data or add their own name to the database. Others will change search engine results to raise or lower a site's rankings. Some will remove a post that the buyer put on a social network. And some hackers will audit the security of a website, seemingly to show the owner where any vulnerabilities exist.
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