Ride the Lightning

Cybersecurity and Future of Law Practice Blog
by Sharon D. Nelson Esq., President of Sensei Enterprises, Inc.

Cybercriminals Offered Six-Figure Salaries, Bonuses, Paid Time Off

February 1, 2023

Cyberscoop reported on January 30th that the bigwigs of ransomware groups and online scam operations need to recruit workers, just like the rest of us. They are not just looking for hackers – there is also a high demand for developers, administrators and designers.

Just like the cybersecurity market is competing for talent, cybercriminals are also offering high salaries and perks. Some ads offered annual salaries as high as $1.2 million for the skilled hackers.

According to new analysis from the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky (and yes, I’m still a fan), it appears that developers are the most sought after talent. The company’s researchers reviewed roughly 200,000 employment-related messages posted on 155 dark web forums between January 2020 and June 2022. Job posts — both seeking employment and listing jobs — have exceeded 10,000 per quarter, the analysis found.

Other in-demand positions included attack specialists, reverse engineers, testers, analysts, administrators and designers.

Many ads had a mundane sort of feel – like typical employment ads. Test assignments were common, the researchers said, and included steps such as encrypting files, evading anti-virus detection and being generally professional and available online.

Other parts of the listings would be familiar to normal tech job seekers, such as incentives — “with each successful assignment, you get a raise and an instant bonus” — employee referral bonuses and paid time off, and drug-free requirements. High salaries for the right candidates were available, $100,000 per month in one listing, $20,000 per month in another, but the median salary, depending on the role, ranged between $1,300 and $4,000.

People seeking this kind of work may not fully understand who they’re getting involved with. “People may have several reasons for going to a dark web site to look for a job,” the researchers wrote. “Many are drawn by expectations of easy money and large financial gain. Most times, this is only an illusion.”

Additionally, the salaries are “seldom significantly higher than those you can earn legally,” the researchers wrote. “Nevertheless, unhappy with their pay, a substantial percentage of employees in the legitimate economy quit their jobs to find similar employment on the dark web market,” they wrote. “Changes on the market, layoffs, and pay cuts, too, often prompt them to look for a job on cybercrime websites.”

And that, my friends, is yet another headache as we try to fill the hundreds of thousands of cybersecurity position vacancies. For the truly skilled hackers who can earn more than a million in a year, the allure is significant. Who wants to wear a white hat when the black hat garners that kind of money?

Hat tip to Dave Ries.

Sharon D. Nelson, Esq., PresidentSensei Enterprises, Inc.
3975 University Drive, Suite 225Fairfax, VA 22030
Email:   Phone: 703-359-0700
Digital Forensics/Cybersecurity/Information Technology