Cybercrooks use "KGB-style" recruitment tactics

Published 11 December 2006

Phishers and hackers are infiltrating university clubs; greed a prime motivator for students; liberal arts majors trained to become sleeper cells

Cloak and dagger and…keyboard? A new study by IT security firm McAfee claims that organzied gangs of cyberthieves, hackers, and phishers are employing “KGB-style” tactics to recruit new employees. According to McAfee, gang members have been trolling in universities, student computer clubs, and online forums — the modern version, perhaps, of Soviet-era spycraft when left-wing student groups were often infiltrated by KGB spies who then set about recruiting its members. “Many of these cybercriminals see the Internet as a job opportunity,” said Dave Thomas of the FBI. “With low employment, they can use their technical skills to feed their family.”

The main targets, of course, are highly-qualified computer engineering students, but anyone needing cash will do, especially when industrial espionage is the modus operandi. Some gangs now pay for liberal arts students to take computer classes, hoping that they will take jobs in large corporations and act as sleeper agents. “Although organized criminals may have less of the expertise and access needed to commit cybercrimes, they have the funds to buy the necessary people to do it for them,” the report says. The McAfee was based partly on FBI and European intelligence.

-read more in this Reuters report