Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Crowdsourcing in the Criminal World, AKA Crimesourcing

We've all seen them, ads looking for workers to complete odd tasks that we can't imagine why anyone would want them done. Or ads we know they want desperate workers for because no one in their right mind would do all that work. Here is one example:
This job is SUPER EASY - all you have to do is post on youtube and pass the captcha, i will supply words to copy paste. Because of this, i can offer .25 per hour -- 25 cents per hour Almost anyone can do this but i expect you to work for the hour and post the whole time. Write back YOUTUBE in the subject line so i know you have read this.
When we read ads like that, we notice so many things wrong. A first thought may be to question why someone would need a bunch of YouTube captcha's passed. The second would be the astonishingly low rate being offered. With the federal minimum wage in the U.S. being $7.25 an hour, it stands to reason this ad is not targeting U.S. citizen workers. That same .25 cents translates into some fairly good wages in many other countries and all the worker has to do is read and type.

Looking at this job ad from a criminal justice perspective tells us even more. They are seeking international workers to avoid breaking laws. International laws are vastly different in many countries and some don't even have laws related to the internet or illegal use of it yet. The second thought is that passing captcha is a requirement that is meant to ensure the poster is a real human being and not an automated system. To bypass it, someone must type it and the poster of this job has something else taking up his time and he wants these passed quickly. Something obviously is not legal or right.

Ads like this are a major part of what has now been coined crimesourcing. The principle is the same as crowd sourcing where jobs are divided up into small parts enabling the employer to contract more highly specialized services with less overall cost and complete the project faster in most cases. Each person working on a small task submits their work and the final project is completed by project managers. Crowdsourcing is a progression on older concepts such as home envelope stuffing, hiring freelancers and the like. As a modern concept, all of these avenues are exploited to avoid paying health care, benefits and more to staffed workers.

With crimesourcing this means that the small tasks, such as purchasing chemicals to make methamphetamines, may be purchased by some contractor looking to pick up some extra cash. The chemicals are not illegal, the contractor is already making a run to the store and picking up a few more vats of the chemical could net him an easy paycheck without any extra work. The chemicals are picked up, the contract has went well and no laws have been broken. For the criminal, the purchase of the chemicals cannot be tracked back to them or their address, so it lessens any suspicion that may come their way.

As for the captcha's mentioned above, the worker isn't breaking any laws that they know of. However, the captchas being bypassed allow the criminal access to user accounts and provide them an opportunity to gather information using software programs. These ads are frequently used by hackers or organized crime rings to keep the suspicion from coming back to them. Sites like YouTube track IP addresses when captcha is entered so they will not have a record of the actual criminal typing in these captcha codes.

Previously, criminals would not trust someone they don't know. However, in these cases, they don't need to trust the worker very much at all. They never meet the worker and the worker has no idea who they are. In addition to that, the worker doesn't know what the work is being used for and in most cases does not care or there are no legal worries because there are no international laws that will prosecute them. This all leaves law enforcement with a long electronic paper trail that leads them in too many different directions to follow.

The same concept works with recent flash mobs where workers are hired to show up at a set location wearing a specific outfit. Have you seen crimesourcing jobs posted online? Have you applied for any of them? What are some ways you think law enforcement can handle these situations?

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