Cybercriminals are using Skype more than any other online messaging platform, according to a new report by Flashpoint.
The study looks at how cybercriminals are operating online and offers a breakdown of the platforms that scammers and other online criminals use, based on language-specific groups.
Researchers looked at the social media platforms that were mentioned within “underground communities”, which tend to be comprised of people who are “involved or interested in financially-motivated cybercrime”, the study explains.
The team used filters for around 80 online messaging platforms, to track how often they were mentioned by scammers on these forums and compared results to those collected in 2012.
The report explains more: “In most cases, five instant messenger platforms accounted for 80 to 90 percent of the mentions across an underground language community.
“Analysts then took the top 8 to 10 results and compared them with each other to visualise the relative frequency of mentions of these instant messenger platforms.”
Flashpoint found that Skype was overwhelmingly the most popular platform for cybercriminals – Skype being listed within the top five most-mentioned platforms for all language groups.
Researchers explain that this could be due to Microsoft having Skype on its devices.
Across English-speaking forums in 2016, Skype received 80.29% of mentions, with AOL Instant Messenger coming in second at 11.57%.
Interestingly, in the Russian-speaking underground, Skype only took up 38.72% of mentions, compared to second-ranked Jabber, which received 24.77% in 2016.
Russian-speaking cybercriminals are “considered the most innovative and sophisticated actors in the cybercrime ecosystem”, according to Flashpoint.
However, Skype dropped in popularity amongst Spanish-speaking cybercriminals from 2012 to 2016, as in 2012 the platform was ranked number one at 48.76% but dropped to the number two spot (15.11%) in 2016, with ICQ ranking first (51.5%).
In Arabic-speaking communities, WhatsApp proved the most popular in 2016, with Skype coming in second – in 2012, Skype was first with 32.82%.
Flashpoint explains that the increasing popularity of platforms such as WhatsApp and Jabber could be a result of higher encryption.
The report reads: “Cybercriminals across the language communities in this study moved from discussing messaging services with fewer encryption and anonymity protections to more sophisticated applications with these protections built-in.
“Services that have become more popularly discussed in underground forums over the past few years include Jabber, Telegram, and WhatsApp.”
Researchers also looked at why cybercriminals choose to use certain platforms and explore the risks that cybercrime could have on businesses.
You can download the full report here.