Just finished a piece detailing, for possibly the first time, exactly what’s going on in the shady world of cyber crime in China.
Researchers at California uni have gone to exhaustive lengths to document the extent of the underground and the MO of its participants.
To be honest, a lot of it is pretty similar to the underground economy operating quite nicely thank you very much elsewhere in the world. Cyber hoods buy and sell their wares online, never meeting, in a highly efficient manner.
However, there are some distinctly Chinese elements to what the researchers found. The crims in the PRC are advertising and communicating with each other in many cases via a public web platform – Baidu PostBar – and Tencent’s hugely popular QQ service.
With just a bit of effort the researchers uncovered all of this by inputting some common criminal jargon – various terms are substituted for underground slang to escape detection.
The whole underground economy is said to cost China over 5bn yuan (£500m) a year and snared around a quarter of web users in 2011.
It’s pretty obvious the government is on it – or will be, once it realises that online will be one of its few remaining growth areas when the economy really starts to slow – but it doesn’t look like the police at the moment really have their focus on breaking such trades.
Every ‘crack down’ they make seems like a glorified PR exercise – the main victims seemingly porn peddlers, political dissidents and other trouble makers.
For the outside observer too, it will be interesting to see how fast things move. When the Chinese authorities want something actioned it is done pretty bloody quick – so it all depends on whether the will is there from the top.
In the meantime, it’s reassuring to see that the same cyber crime problems are felt throughout the world – but probably not reassuring if you’re a web business looking to tap the vast market that lies behind the Great Firewall.