June 4, 2012 By Dancho Danchev

Cybercriminals infiltrate the music industry by offering full newly released albums for just $1

Next to commodity underground goods and services such as managed spam, harvested email databases, boutique cybercrime-friendly services, services offering access to hacked PCs, managed malware crypting on demand, and managed email hacking as a service, the cybercrime ecosystem is also a thriving marketplace for stolen intellectual property, such as music releases.

In this post I’ll profile a recently launched affiliate network for pirated music, offering up to 35% revenue sharing schemes with the cybercriminals that start reselling the stolen releases which undercut the official music marketplaces prices in an attempt to increase their profits.

More details:

What’s particularly interesting about this affiliate network, is that just like pharmaceutical affiliate networks, the owners are offering a diversified arsenal of SEO (search engine optimization) and blackhat SEO tools such as, complete dumps of the database,  RSS and Atom feeds, web site templates and affiliate links. How is the affiliate network paying its participants? Pretty simple, on a periodic basis, within three days to be precise, they would receive their payment using Web Money or wire transfer.

Let’s take a peek inside the affiliate network in order to better understand how it works.

Sample forum post advertising the newly launched affiliate network for pirated music:

Screenshot showing the interface of the affiliate network:

Screenshot showing the interface of the affiliate network:

Sample Mp3 selling web page generated by the affiliate network:

Sample Mp3 selling web page generated by the affiliate network:

A comparison of the price from a legitimate music marketplace such as Amazon.com next to the affiliate network’s proposition:

A comparison of the price from a legitimate music marketplace such as Amazon.com next to the affiliate network’s proposition:

As you can see, the price for Adele’s 21 album on the legitimate store is $1.29 per song, however, the price for the same album at the affiliate network for pirated music is $0.11 per song. Since the cybercriminals operating the affiliate networks obtained the pirated music without investing huge amounts of time and money into it, no matter what price they set up as the default price for selling the MP3’s, they will still earn a profit.

Thanks to the mature monetization methods offered by affiliate networks, they still remain one of the key driving forces behind the growth of the cybercrime ecosystem in general.

Webroot will continue monitoring the development of the affiliate network.

You can find more about Dancho Danchev at his LinkedIn Profile. You can also follow him on  Twitter.

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