The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an unforeseen growth for cyber-crime forums on the dark web. Apparently, the fact that many people were obliged to stay inside has increased internet traffic in general, and the dark web has naturally absorbed part of this spike. Moreover, people who have lost their jobs as a result of the extended lock-down are now looking for opportunities to make a quick buck. Digital Shadows has taken a detailed look in the scene, reporting signs of sudden user influx on the most notorious cybercrime forums.
In April 2020, the forums known as “Nulled” and “CrackedTO” have published announcements looking for trial moderators, as they needed help in handling the sudden increase in posts and new users. The admins mentioned rapid growth during the COVID-19 situation, rendering the hiring of additional mods an emergency. A notable detail and innuendo of these postings is that the forums’ admins are estimating this spike to become a permanent situation. The negative effects of the pandemic in the economy are pushing people towards illegal activities on the dark web, and this is an indication of what’s about to come.
Moderators play a key role in the operations of dark web forums. They provide technical support, arrange payment matters for any active advertisements on the site, offer advice to new users, receive user reports, and perform editing on user posts when needed. That said, they are meant to help forums maintain a welcoming character and to regulate the content of postings and filter out fake listings, spam, malicious links, etc. Not having enough moderators to do all that is a sure way to fail quickly, as users will look elsewhere when they lose their trust in a platform.
So, what are the forum admins asking from these mods? Many require knowledge of Russian, as most of the hiring forums are Russian cyber-crime havens. Others want the applicants to have at least some experience in the field. Some mention long-term commitment, like six months of a trial period. As for the working hours, the minimum that the Digital Shadows reporters managed to find is three hours per day. As it becomes clear, this is a demanding job with multiple requirements and elevated expectations. These aren’t factors determined by the legality of an entity, but by the size of the economic activity that takes place in and around it.