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How do criminals make money from the internet?

Updated on January 13, 2012

I have always kept an eye on the online criminal element. My reasons for doing so are twofold: Firstly I find the technology behind their crimes very interesting. Secondly it is easier to protect yourself, if you know what the bad guys are up to.

The chances of internet criminals getting caught
Unfortunately the chance of a cyber criminal facing prosecution is very low.
Reasons why:

  • A clever criminal will make sure that they, the victim and the internet servers involved are all in separate countries. They may even use countries that will not extradite people or hand evidence over.
  • The technical setup may be very complex making explaining it, to a judge, very difficult.
  • Criminals mostly keep the crimes small and move the elements of it around. So if they are convicted it is of a very small crime.

Put all of this together and it means a prosecutor would have to spend millions, without a good chance of conviction and with the probability of a light punishment. You can see why prosecutions are rare.

The nature of the beast
Criminals are forever recombining and redoing their schemes. Changing the distribution, monetization and combining elements to stay one step ahead of the authorities

Cookie stuffing

A cookie is data that is stored by your web browser. So you open a web page and the web pages send a message to your browser saying: "remember this information, for the next year". Then your browser does it.

Now, say I put an ad for hiking boots, to Amazon’s web site, on my web page. Someone comes along, reads my web page and clicks on the ad. Amazon’s web site loads a cookie onto the visitor’s web browser, when their page loads. The cookie says that I was the last person to refer this visitor to Amazon. The visitor doesn’t buy the boots immediately. He thinks about it and the next day he goes back, to the Amazon page and buys the boots.

Because Amazon recognizes the cookie, I get paid a commission.

Now what the criminal does is to artificially load this cookie into someones web browser. Then if they go to an affiliate site, like Amazon and buy something there, they get a commission on the sale.

Credit card fraud

Credit card fraud is a serious problem, on the internet. Thieves can steal your credit card details in a number of ways, for instance by installing spyware on your PC, which records your keystrokes and then sends your details to them. The thieves can then use the information in a number of ways, but typically they would use it to buy resalable items, like laptops or digital cameras. They would then move the items outside the city or even country, in which it was delivered and then resell it.

To protect yourself, keep a close eye on your credit card charges. If you spot a charge that shouldn't be there, contact your bank. Only use your credit card to buy items, from your own PC, never from a public computer.

File injection

File injection is when you take an executable file and you change it, so it runs another program when someone installs it. So you could take the installation file, for Microsoft Word and inject another program into it. Then when someone installs it, they get an infection with the software.

These infected files are spread around on file sharing networks and through temporary web sites.

You can only do this with programs not documents, sound or movie files.

The criminals prefer to use small executable files, because they are are easier to distribute to a large number of people.

What gets installed:

Spyware: Software that tries to steal your personal data, like your credit card details.

Adware: Software that pops up ads while you are trying to use the internet.

Cookie stuffing programs: Programs that stuff cookies into your web browser.

Protecting yourself from internet criminals

There are a few things you can do to protect yourself. Install a good anti virus program. I use Nod32. Make sure that your Operating System and anti virus software has the newest security patches installed.

If you download a small dodgy file from a file sharing network. Upload it to, they run the file through 20 or so virus checks.

If you keep valuable data on your PC, consider getting a backup hard drive. It can be setup to automatically backup your whole hard drive, periodically. If you have a problem or your hard drive breaks, you can easily restore your PC.

How criminals make money from the internet with Google

The scam

There are many different scams online, most people won't fall for these scams. The scammer succeeds by attempting to trick as many people as possible. They count on the fact that there is always someone gullible enough, in a large group of people.

Now we all know the Nigerian crime scam email. Basically they ask you to launder money through your bank account. If you give them your bank details, they try to draw money out of your account instead.

Now lets look at a more disturbing scam.

If you look to your right that's a screen capture of a Google Adsens ad. I market the relevant ad in red. What they are selling is a kit for improving your car's fuel efficiency by adding hydrogen into the system. It's also known as the run your car on water scam.

The catch is that it really decreases the fuel efficiency of your car. On that site they sell a kit for doing it at $1,000, so they are probably making around $900 per sucker.


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    • 1arnold1 profile image

      1arnold1 7 years ago from Florida

      Wow you really did your homework here! well done everything is important everyone should know this to avoid becoming a victim....super keep it up