Credit card data stolen from retailers such as Target,
Tuesday, a large batch of credit and debit card information that appears to be from
Carder forums "are the Craig's List of the hacker underground," says
"It's not just cards. It's phishing kits, malware, spammer lists," O'Farrell said. "It's a like a shopping mall for cybercrime."
O'Farrell opened an account on one carder forum, rescator.la, where he was able to peruse offers for millions of Target credit cards. The website, registered in
FROM WALLET TO CYBERDEN
When credit information stolen from Target appeared for sale in the forums, individual card numbers fetched up to
"The most important part of the price is the freshness, before the victim knows they've been breached and when no one is canceling," he says. "The guarantees on the cards dwindle the older they get."
To outrun law enforcement, the most sophisticated criminal hackers hide their "carder forums" on the "Dark Web," which uses The Onion Router, known as TOR, to conceal the location of the computer servers hosting the websites. TOR ensures secrecy by randomly routing computer messages through several places on the Internet, wrapped in encrypted code, so no single point can link the source to the destination, making the sites nearly impossible to trace.
Criminals can break into companies' databases with malicious software purchased online from computer hackers, who mostly operate out of
Once the information is collected, members of the cybergang test it and sort it into bundles that are priced, then sold in the underground sites, Kellermann says. Bundles range from 500 cards to 10,000 cards. To ensure the cards work, the thieves use an automated system to charge a small amount -- around the price of a cup of coffee -- to 10,000 cards at a time.
The tests determine the card's validity and credit limit. Cards with the highest credit limits, such as an American Express Platinum card, sell for the most money, Kellermann says. A card number with a low limit might sell for
QUICK WINDOW OF VALUE
The recent series of data breaches have flooded the market with cards, which must be moved quickly before they lose their value, Kellermann says.
Some of the criminals who buy the cards use the data to shop online. Others create credit cards from blank plastic cards, known as "white classics," that can be purchased online and imprinted with the data. The buyers must move quickly before consumers notice fraud charges and call their banks to cancel the cards.
Luis Gustavo Tavarez, 34, pleaded guilty last week in
Kellermann says the
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