Keep Your Day Job: Some Hackers Charge as Little as $2.50 an Hour

by Arjun Kharpal, CNBC /  / Updated 

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Hackers are selling their services to take down websites on the internet for significantly less than the minimum wage they would get if they had regular jobs.

The attacks carried out by the hackers are known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) and occur when a website is overloaded with traffic, causing it to crash. DDoS attacks are not particularly sophisticated.

The idea of selling such a service online is not new, but cybersecurity company Arbor Networks, managed to track a hacker known as "Forceful" down and get an insight into how it works, and more importantly how much the person is earning from their services.

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In the case of Forceful, the hacker posted an advertisement on a Russian-language forum online, listing prices and contact information. People can then use secure messaging apps to get in touch and negotiate the logistics.

There's little information on how much this kind of service sells for currently but Arbor tracked down one offering.

Starting on August 8, 2015 at around 08:47 in the morning, an attack was launched by Forceful on a website, and it lasted for two days and about 21 hours. Forceful charges $60 per day, which is $2.50 an hour. Arbor worked out this attack cost just $172.50.

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Overall, the total estimated revenue for the 82 attacks from July 9, 2015 to October 18, 2015 was $5,408. The mean estimated revenue per attack was $66 and the mean estimated revenue per day was $54.

This daily revenue figure is below the $58 someone would make if they were on the $7.25 U.S. federal minimum wage working a standard eight-hour day.

"The first surprise was these guys were making less money than I thought," Dennis Schwarz, research analyst at Arbor, told CNBC by phone.

"We always hear about these huge DDoS attacks and you must figure they cost a lot, and that doesn't seem to be the case."

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Schwarz did add that this was just one case however and added it is hard to tell if this is a figure characteristic of the industry.

The security researcher also explained some of the potential reasons for hiring Forceful's services. One attack, Schwarz explained, was on a website selling cigars.

"Maybe it's an owner of another cigar company that is a bit unscrupulous and wants to hurt the other rivals," he told CNBC.

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