Huge increase in illegally obtained digital identities being traded

Netacea report uncovers the tactics used to steal and sell genuine digital fingerprints on the most popular deep web marketplace

Posted 27 April 2021 by

The number of stolen digital identities available to purchase on the internet has increased by 250 percent in two years.

The figures were released by bot detection and mitigation specialist Netacea, which has investigated the Genesis Market, the world’s largest invite-only deep web marketplace that trades digital fingerprints and enables buyers to impersonate a victim online.

It’s report, report Buying Bad Bots Wholesale: The Genesis Market, shows that since April 2019, the marketplace has increased from 100,000 to more 350,000 today, with more than 18,000 being added each month.

The tasks that the Genesis Market bots undertake involve large-scale infection of consumer devices to steal the digital fingerprints, cookies, saved logins and autofill form data available on them. That data is packaged up and put up for sale, with prices for these bots ranging from less than $1 to $370 for bots that contain more significant amounts of embedded data.

The report reveals that upon purchase of a Genesis bot, buyers receive a custom browser into which they load the data. This enables those buyers to represent themselves online as the individual whose personal information has been stolen. The bot user is able to browse the internet as the victim, use saved logins to access the victim’s accounts or continue a victim’s session if login cookies are available – all without access to the original device.

“We’re caught in a Catch-22. With more companies making the digital leap and an increasing amount of data available online, there’s been a surge in data breaches as hackers look to cash in on consumer’s data. As hackers invest more and profit more from attacks, the number of attacks increases,” said Matthew Gracey-McMinn, head of threat research at Netacea.

“The significant growth of the Genesis Market represents a huge step forward for attackers challenging client-side detection mechanisms and is making that Catch-22 harder to break.”

As a result of the findings, Netacea said it has invested £250,000 into hiring new threat research analysts to expand its threat research team and increasing training for new and existing team members. Part of the investment will also be dedicated to the creation of a standardise bot management framework for businesses to capture all automated bot threats and their lifecycle in a series of comprehensive kill chains.

“As attackers advance, so will cybersecurity defences,” said Gracey-McMinn. “It’s an arms race, but automation can and must be used as our secret weapon. Our investment into more research and the creation of a bot management framework will help ensure businesses and their customers remain protected.”