Platforms and the Cybercrime Economy: Towards a socio-economic analysis

Presented by Mike McHuire as a part of the 2020 Serene-risc Workshop on The State of Canadian Cybersecurity Conference: Human-Centric Cybersecurity

About the presentation

One of the primary motivations for engaging in cybercrime lies in the pursuit of revenues. Yet though this has been a well understood pathway into offending within traditional crime contexts it has been far less researched in the cybercrime field. Where there has been a focus on financial aspects of cybercrime this has tended to focus upon its costs (to governments, companies or victims), rather than the potential profits to be made from it. Yet revenues play a central role in driving the cybercrime economy; first in terms of the methods used to generate them; second in terms of how they are moved transferred or laundered and third in terms of how they are disposed of or spent. In this discussion I report back on an 18 month study which attempted to address this gap by mapping some of the revenue flows that sustain and promote the appeal of cybercriminality. I identify an emerging key factor in the role of revenue generation on both the clear and dark net – the platform. In the legal economy platforms have begun to occupy so central a role in generating wealth that the term ‘platform capitalism’ has been used to characterise it. I explore how platforms function to generate revenues within the cybercrime economy, how this is creating new interfaces between the licit and illicit economy and what the implication for our more general understanding of cybercriminality might be.

About the speaker

Dr Michael McGuire is Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Surrey, UK. His first book Hypercrime: The New Geometry of Harm (Glasshouse, 2008), was the first to conceptualise cybercrime in terms of hyperconnection, rather than cyberspace. His most recent publications, Technology, Crime & Justice: The Question Concerning Technomia and the Handbook of Technology, Crime and Justice (Routledge, 2012 & 2016) provided comprehensive overviews of the implication of technology for the justice system and these complement a range of applied studies of cybercrime, including Organised Crime in the Digital Age (2012), one of the first studies of how organised crime has shifted to the internet and The Web of Profit (2018-2020) a three report analysis of the emerging cybercrime economy and the revenues it now generates. His forthcoming book Platform Criminality: The Evolution of Cybercrime (Cavendish 2021) further develops this theme. Dr McGuire is currently one of the lead investigators for the $1.5m ACCEPT project (Addressing Cybersecurity and Cybercrime via a co-Evolutionary aPproach to reducing human-relaTed risks) funded by the UK Engineering and Physical Science council which aims to develop a co-evolution-based methodology for modelling human factors in cybersecurity.