Criminals of the Digital Underworld

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“The Internet of Things has become the Internet of Things to hack,” says Marc Goodman to the London Real podcast listeners. He describes the vastly unexplored digital world along with the dangers and advantages of wandering through it. Before I continue about this podcast, I must say that Marc Goodman kept my attention throughout the entirety of this discussion. As an individual with such a strong speaking ability discussing a topic that is so unique, it is nearly impossible to ignore him. The data driven podcast was riveting and informative.

As a current business student, his comparison of a business scale to that of what he called “crimes of scale” was an effective way of gauging my interest instantaneously. The traditional crime of equipping arms, i.e. a knife or gun, then proceeding to rob an individual in an alley or local store seems like a decent business move for these criminals on the surface. After all, petty criminals don’t have bosses and set their own hours – but the major issue with their business plan (aside from the obvious moral and legal trappings) is that they cannot take their work to scale in the grand scheme of things. To compensate, the modern criminal has adapted to the digital era by becoming more technologically advanced than many of the police forces pursuing them. For example, one of the first technologies of scale as a part of business transportation was the railroad system of the 19th century. Criminals took advantage of the existing infrastructure to create a solid revenue within their business quickly by taking down the competition.

Goodman then transitions this to the crimes occurring within the digital world. From stolen accounts and passports, to graphic images of murder or vicious crimes, it is petrifying to know how much is possible for these villainous individuals. One stat that stood out to me was that Google only indexes the surface web – only about 0.03% of the entire Internet, according to Goodman. What is known as the “deep web” is actually what takes up the majority of the digital world, a subset of which is the “dark web” where criminals communicate and make transactions among themselves.

To access this anomalous area, as stated by Goodman, one would need a cryptic tool called “Tor” also called the “Onion Router.” The US Government created Tor in order to constantly communicate with democracy activists overseas. Naturally, criminals who are actively becoming informed on technology attack this opportunity. As a result, the dark web came to life. This area of our digital planet has become a network for criminals, posting every sort of vile crime and stolen account. This just shows that while the vast majority of technology uses are created for a moral purpose must still be created with caution due to the increasingly acclimated technological knowledge of modern day criminals.

Goodman also mentioned many companies that, while they may look like a typical corporation with a CEO, CFO, and so on, they are actually performing an official organized crime constantly. Goodman went over various companies that range from marketing groups spreading a virus through the promotion of an anti-virus, to a group of “Narcos” in Mexico creating a telephone company that can access all states within the US that may want to purchase their product. From both a business and devil’s advocate standpoint. The business schemes he described, while obviously immoral and illegal, are quite brilliant. To create a public group, organized abiding by all local laws within the eyes of said public, but moving into an incredibly illegal activity that brings in large amounts of revenue is an ideal that many ethical business members abide by, “high risk, high reward.” This is not meant to promote these illegal activities, but to agree with the statements mentioned by Goodman during the podcast regarding the continuing ability of crime through technology.

The vast majority of people are blind to what can be accessed on the Internet, myself included. Goodman also made the analogy of how the priests during the Middle Ages had “the book” and were the only individuals capable of reading the word written within the book by the God whom everyone worshiped at the time.  He compared these priests to the people today who are able to read code. As technology becomes more and more sophisticated and therefore removed from the common man, we reach an age of a structural inequality between those who can code and those who cannot. The danger lies in the tendency for most law-abiding citizens to take these emerging technologies for granted while criminals are becoming more and more fluent in the language of digital control.

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