In a new study, researchers from intelligence firm Flashpoint have discovered that Skype is the number one communication channel for cybercriminals worldwide, edging out competitors like WhatsApp, Telegram and ICQ.
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The research, which analyzes the current state of affair in online crime-related communication, relied on “mentions of social media platforms in the underground communities” to reach this conclusion. The list of communities monitored by Flashpoint includes numerous black hat messaging boards and internet forums, associated with web-based fraudulent activity.
While Skype unequivocally topped the charts across the board, the authors found that online scammers tend to opt for different messengers depending on where they are based or what language they speak.
When choosing certain communication channels, cybercriminals informed their decisions based on factors like ease of use as well as concerns related to security and anonymity.
Skype dominated English and Russian speaking online swindler communities, with respectively 62 and 38 percent of users mentioning the app. According to the study, back in 2012 Spanish and Arabic cybercriminals similarly relied on Skype to pull their shenanigans, but they had mostly switched to ICQ and WhatsApp (respectively) by 2016.
Curiously, ICQ proved to be quite popular among cybercriminals too, making the top five in Russian, Spanish, French, Arabic and English speaking underground communities.
The researchers speculate this might have to do with the strong Russian influence in online hacking communities.
“Russian-speaking cybercriminals are well-known for their prowess and universally considered the most innovative and sophisticated actors in the cybercrime ecosystem,” the authors claimed. “For this reason, actors from other language communities often emulate Russian cybercriminals in an attempt to raise their own levels of competency.”
For more insights on the communication patterns of cybercriminals worldwide, you can check out the full study here.