Tracking hackers is not a fast and straightforward activity these days. Yes, most governments’ monitoring and data analytics capabilities are indeed becoming better and better. However, the privacy tools are becoming better and better, as well. There is a constant debate whether people must give more of their online privacy for safety. On the other side giving more power to centralized authorities can lead to dystopian states and not functional societies.
One scientific branch helping the governments to catch cybercriminals is cyber criminology. As a discipline, cyber criminology encompasses a multidisciplinary field of inquiry – criminology, sociology, psychology, victimology, information technology, and computer/internet sciences. But in short, its primary goal is to standardize the way we catch cybercriminals. As we can see, most of these disciplines are coming from the social criminology world, and they are primarily used to make a psychological profile of the attacker. On the other side, the technical aspects are crucial if we want to catch the hacker and how he/she managed to hack the system. Without cyber forensics and, most notably, computer science, we don’t have a proper way to understand what happened and how to catch hackers.
One of the main ways to hit criminal organizations properly is to target and track their infrastructure. Without a decent infrastructure, one can not do much in cyberspace. Sure, a hacker attack can steal a lot of data and create havoc, but they need computers, servers, and other equipment for all of this. The stolen data must be stored somewhere, analyzed, and eventually used for blackmail or released to the public. Like cloud providers, hackers need backup and retention plans for the stolen data, and nothing is for free.
One interesting case for such infrastructure is a former NATO bunker used to host Dark Net websites. The German police stormed the place allegedly used to host websites offering drugs, child pornography, and devices to breach computers. Over 600 police personnel were involved in the raid on what they termed a “cyber bunker data center” in the western German city of Traben-Trarbach. Seven people were arrested, with 13 more sought, although none were taken into custody at the site. The arrests occurred at a local restaurant and in the town of Schwalbach, near Frankfurt. Other raids co-occurred in Poland, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.
This case is quite interesting because cybercriminals usually do not have so many resources to create a whole data center. Hacking has an asymmetric nature, and most of the time, attackers have fewer resources than the defenders. And these smaller criminal cells are targeting SMEs. In that case, a significant criminal group, most probably part of the mafia, owned a whole data center.
In conclusion, we should track and hit cybercriminals by finding their data infrastructure and destroy it. Acquiring infrastructure is one of the most expensive parts of a hacker operation. It can take months to years to accumulate it. And here comes the cyber criminology value. We can use this interdisciplinary field to find where the infrastructure is located and destroy it.