Dark Web Cryptocurrency Deals Likely in News Sites' Admin Hacks

Dark Web Cryptocurrency Deals Likely in News Sites’ Admin Hacks

A Russian-language dark web forum has recently caught international attention for postings offering to sell admin access to more than 1,000 U.S. news sites’ content backends. Israeli cybersecurity firm Sixgill has told Bitsonline that cryptocurrency has a “very high probability” of being involved in any associated sales. 

Also read: Lightning Network Goes to Congress as Specter of Crypto Policy Grows

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Fakes News: Dark Web Cryptocurrency Deals for Sites’ Admin Panels?

Last week, news site Axios published a report detailing how Israeli cybersecurity firm Sixgill had discovered Russian dark web forum postings where large amounts of international and American news sites’ admin login credentials were being sold.

While the credentials were priced in U.S. dollars in the postings in question, the Axios report didn’t delve into how purchases were conducted.

Bitsonline reached out to Sixgill to see if cryptocurrencies were likely involved in related login sales, and the firm’s intelligence expert Alex Karlinsky said it was almost certain.

“There is a very high probability that the sales of access to news and media CMS’s will be facilitated by cryptocurrency, as this is now the go-to payment method of choice for cybercriminals,” Karlinsky told Bitsonline.

The unknown hackers have been offering “upload / edit posts” capabilities to as many as 1,425 U.S. news sites since Dec. 2018. Similar Saudi Arabian and Southeast Asian sites have apparently been on sale since last fall.

Two dark web postings offering login info for news sites’ admin panels. Images via Sixgill

Illicitly-gained data being sold for cryptocurrencies has been on the rise in recent years, as cybercriminals have used the pseudoanonmyity of digital assets to try to separate themselves further from their crimes.

One such case came last August when hackers hosted 130 million Chinese hotel guests’ travel data for sale on the dark web in exchange for bitcoin. And in June 2018, Europol seized more than $5 million USD worth of crypto in a bust against European dark web LSD dealers.

Crypto a Major Deanonymization Vector on the Dark Web, Though

Pseudoanonymity isn’t full anonymity. And that dynamic can out those who do turn to dark web cryptocurrency transactions.

That’s per anonymity researcher and Open Privacy executive director Sarah Jamie Lewis, who told Bitsonline last year that cryptocurrency use was “a major deanonymization vector.”

Of course when it comes to chain analysis endeavors, privacy coins like Monero and Zcash pose much harder challenges for law enforcement than less privacy-focused blockchains like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

In the fall of 2017, Europol issued a report saying bitcoin was still the currency du jour on the dark web at the time but that other cryptocurrencies were rapidly gaining ground there in popularity.

“Cryptocurrencies continue to be exploited by cybercriminals, with Bitcoin being the currency of choice in criminal markets, and as payment for cyber-related extortion attempts, such as from ransomware or a DDoS attack,” the authors said.

“However, other cryptocurrencies such as Monero, Ethereum and Zcash are gaining popularity within the digital underground.”

What’s your take? Do dark web cryptocurrency transactions work against mainstream adoption of crypto, or in favor? Let us know in the comments section below. 


Images via Pixabay

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