Researchers at security firm Digital Shadows have conducted an analysis of Deer.io, a Russian website that they claim makes it easy even for less technically skilled individuals to become cybercriminals.
Deer.io is an openly accessible platform that allows users to host their online shops for a monthly fee of $8. The service claims to have over 25,000 users who have earned a total of RUB 253 million (roughly USD 3.8 million). The shop’s terms of service explicitly prohibit the sale of narcotics, hacking software, compromised accounts, DDoS services, personal and financial information, and exploits.
However, Digital Shadows says that while the operators of Deer.io do remove certain shops (e.g. ones selling bank account and payment card data), the company believes the site’s administrators turn a blind eye to some of the activities taking place on their platform.
Active since at least October 2013, Deer.io has hosted Darkside.global, the shop used by the individual known online as “Tessa88” to sell hundreds of millions of compromised user accounts for LinkedIn, Myspace, Twitter, VK and others.
According to Digital Shadows, a majority of shops hosted on the platform specialize in social media accounts registered by bots, stolen credentials, coupons for services that provide social network followers, and accounts for banking and other services that can be directly monetized. Researchers also discovered shops offering hosting services.
The security firm said it even alerted a global airline whose user accounts had been sold on an online store hosted by Deer.io.
Deer.io handles everything one needs to run an online shop, including anonymity and security, payment services, website design, and protection against DDoS attacks, which experts believe allows even individuals with low technical skills to set up a cybercrime shop.
There are several platforms that allow users to easily set up online shops, and one could argue that any of them can be leveraged for cybercriminal activities. However, unlike those services, Deer.io is advertised on many well-known criminal forums, including Exploit, Zloy, AntiChat and Xeksek. Furthermore, researchers say deer.io operators have advised their users to advertise their shops on these sites.
“Just when you thought it couldn’t get any easier, cybercriminals are now experiencing even lower barriers to entry,” said Rick Holland, VP of strategy at Digital Shadows. “While this trend is not necessarily new, the fact that all of these support services are wrapped into a one-stop shop marks a change. Moreover, amid constant hype surrounding the dark web, it is important to note that this exists on the surface web, and that the dark web does not monopolize criminality.”