The Mafia of the 21st Century (2019)

Cybercriminal in a black hoodie hacking company networks to perform a data breach.

The words “organized crime” conjure up images of famous gangsters like Al Capone and John Dillinger. When you think of organized crime you think of tommy gun wielding thugs smoking cheap cigars in the thick of the night. You think of dark alleys, shady looking hideouts and gold teeth.

Or you think of the non-romanticized version: drive-by shootings, long court sessions and all of the terrible pain and suffering caused by criminals and their gangs.

You definitely don’t think of a few people hiding behind computers and codenames who have never met each other in real life. That’s not organized crime, those are a few annoying hackers who pester the world with malware and email scams because of some unguided sense of self-righteousness and purpose.

But oh have the times changed!

Organized crime has changed with the times, and I for one had no idea. I had assumed the gangsters of old had died off or become insignificant compared to their legendary predecessors. But, I was wrong; they have just changed – and advanced – like the rest of the developing world. They have moved online to the Internet as so many legitimate businesses have done. They have morphed into a new kind of organized crime, organized cybercrime.

Cybercrime… doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

A skinny little guy wearing a bathrobe with a laptop in a fair trade coffee shop doesn’t seem as scary as two gargantuan thugs banging on your door. But as I said before, the times have changed and now that one guy sipping his espresso could be part of a cybercrime network that costs the world economy an estimated $400 billion every year. You can’t say no one saw it coming however; “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the Earth” (Matthew 5.5). Now I doubt he was talking about organized cybercrime but I thought it was funny that a lesson taught in the Bible applied to the changes in organized crime.  Bible aside, it seems your common thug is a thing of the past and now the real business is online.

You can now go and buy these organization’s services. You can get in contact with them and say, “can you infect 10,000 computers with this malware, and we’ll pay you X amount of dollars”. And they’ll do it for you. It’s organized crime and the market is scarily profitable. These groups are quite sophisticated, and in a way, more damaging than the gangs of old ever were.  They may not take your life to send a message to other gangs, but they’ll steal hundreds of identities, hold thousands of phones ransom, and take control of your computer to access your bank accounts and personal information for the right price.

While this is all very scary, I want to revisit the affect cybercrime has on the world economy.

$400,000,000,000 to the world economy.

That’s 0.56% of the GWP (Gross World Product).  Every year $400 billion is lost to cybercriminal activity. On top of that, it is estimated that cybercrime cost the US 200,000 jobs, and Europe 150,000 jobs through losses in intellectual property and damage to the GDP. Let’s put that in perspective shall we?

In March of 2012, it was estimated that Obama had created 125 000 jobs (net) over the 3 years he was in office. That’s all I need to say. Organized cybercrime has had more of an affect than Obama’s impact on the job environment.

So in short:

So, to wrap it up, cybercrime is a real thing; it has a real impact on the world. It is the evolution of the gangsters of yore. Yes, it can affect you individually. Yes, abolishing organized cybercrime would create more jobs than the net change Obama had managed to achieve during his years as president. And, finally, yes that kid in his pyjamas sipping a pumpkin spice latte can – and will – ruin your life.

Welcome to the Mafia of the 21st Century.

By: Michael Kachaniwsky