Criminals are trading copies of valuable Australian passports on one of the dark web’s largest marketplaces for less than the price of two schooners of beer.
Scanned copies of Australian passports were listed at just $16.50, driving licenses exchanged for $48 and mobile phone numbers and emails with connections at just over $13.
All of these key credentials can be used to open new accounts at banks, crypto exchanges, and betting shops, or as credible evidence that criminals can use to break into otherwise secure accounts.
Among the items found by NordVPN were passports, personal IDs, driver’s licenses, emails, payment card data, mobile phone numbers, online accounts, bank account IDs, accounts cryptographic and other personal data.
Real scans of real passports are common on dark web markets, while less spotted fake passports can trade above $1500.
Stolen physical passports are much rarer, but have been known to cost well over $10,000, depending on nationality.
NSW Police discover huge trove of illegal weapons in statewide operation
“This market is just the tip of an iceberg,” said Adrianus Warmenhoven, cybersecurity expert at NordVPN.
He said there are currently over 30,000 websites on the dark web.
“The market that was analyzed (…) was chosen because it has been used by some large hacker groups in the past, such as the one involved in the AT&T data theft in August of last year.”
The dark web is an encrypted network that uses the Internet, but requires specific software to access it.
The ease of access and shield of anonymity have made the dark web an attractive tool for criminals, including drug traffickers, counterfeiters, con artists, pedophiles and terrorists.
Illegal drugs are the most prolific commodity traded on the dark web, cybercrime expert Julian Plummer told 9news.com.au.
The other commodity being bought and sold at significant levels is information, he said, which included child pornography and other forms of illegal pornography.
“Everything that’s illegal in most countries is on the dark web,” Plummer said.
“You have information on fraud, how to commit fraud, bitcoin hacks, how to counterfeit fiat currencies and how to hack passwords.”
Although stories about passports, ID cards and driver’s licenses attract attention, Plummer said the sale of passwords was actually the “big one”.
Cybercriminals were more interested in selling millions of hacked accounts and passwords than copies of passports.
“Once something like Yahoo is hacked, those passwords are on the dark web within an hour, selling for pennies per user,” he said.
“What they are looking for is scale.”
The dark web is notoriously difficult for law enforcement to monitor.
Prosecutors alleged that the site, DarkMarket, sold drugs, counterfeit money, stolen or forged credit cards, anonymous cell phone SIM cards and malware.
DarkMarket had nearly 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors when it was taken offline, German prosecutors said.