Hackers have started to advertise hacking lessons on the Telegram messenger, moving their wares away from the dark web in search of new customers
The e-learning courses peddled on Telegram are sometimes accompanied by glossy marketing material with assigned tutors and video lessons given over the Telegram system.
Digital Shadows looked into the new wave of Telegram courses. It found that one of the key providers appears to be the rather grandly-titled University of Cybersecurity and Anonymity, an apparently Russian-owned enterprise. Its courses are promoted using professional video ads, and wannabe students must cough up the course fees in bitcoin to take part.
With 70 courses to choose from, there appears to be plenty for wannabe hackers to get their teeth into, including phishing, social engineering techniques, and “carding” -- fraud on online payment gateways.
Sometimes, the courses are essentially used as currency between hackers, with the opportunity to swap skills in return for help with something else.
Hacking Goes Mainstream
Giving semi-pro hacking lessons, complete with both a university-style curriculum and course website, seems to be a new way for hackers to earn money from their cybersecurity knowledge.
Pricing for a course reportedly ranges from $1 to more than $1,000, depending on the quality of the information and whether a course tutor is involved. Occasionally, short courses are offered free as a teaser, or in exchange for favors from other hackers online.
Additionally, hackers are increasingly looking for ways to monetize their skills, beyond the basic method of defrauding companies and stealing personal data. Some have moved into the lucrative business of mass malware production, where one tool can be resold multiple times to different buyers.
The Register reported that these courses existed back in June last year, so it’s not a new phenomenon. But the move to Telegram could point to the fact that the hackers are looking to make their lessons appear more legitimate.
Are Hackers Training More People to Threats?
The main cause of the shift onto Telegram seems to be the crackdown on dark web marketplaces, which previously provided the perfect platform to sell hacking lessons and other dodgy goods. Telegram is often cited as one of the most secure messengers in the world, alongside Signal, and that’s why it’s favored by all kinds of privacy-conscious users.
Additionally, this new trend for holding webinars shows that services like Telegram can be used for getting information to a wider audience -- in this case, people who prefer not to venture onto the dark web.
It’s unlikely we’ll see a huge number of trained-up cyber criminals from courses like this, but they do give enthusiastic and capable amateurs the opportunity to sharpen their skills and potentially cause mischief, or simply experiment with techniques that can cause harm.