Crooks target students for cyber crime

"I was offered £20,000 to build Chip and Pin machine"

Cyber criminals are so desperate to defraud innocents online that they are turning to tech students for help. McAfee said yesterday that criminal organisations are funding students through university to gain their help once the studies have finished.

Tech.co.uk spoke this morning to a Cybernetics, Electronics and Engineering student who was offered £20k by a Jamaican gang for help in cracking the security on Chip and Pin cards.

In a world so dominated by the internet, many criminals are going online to steal from people without even leaving the house. Even drug cartels are leaving the world of narcotics behind to make money by ripping people off over the internet.

The student, 29, wished to remain anonymous for his own safety. He is referred to herein as Mr. X.

Criminal cold calling

"It was April 2005 and I was in London visiting a friend. He's a mechanic and I'd designed and built him an electronic diagnostic tool to use while servicing cars. That's the sort of thing I can do, building data loggers and so forth.

"While we were in the garage discussing it, I was approached by a Jamaican chap who was interested in my skill with electronics."

The stranger asked Mr. X if he would be able to create an electronic device that would be able to clone the information on Chip and Pin credit cards.

"I said that it was possible and so I enquired as to his intentions. Right there and then he offered me £20,000 to build a Chip and Pin card cloning device on a six week deadline.

Shocking offer

"At first I didn't know what to say, I was stunned."

When the gravity of the offer had sunk in, Mr. X told the man that there was no way he could guarantee that he'd be able to build the device, let alone in just six weeks.

"I had to turn him down. And to be honest I was absolutely terrified. I needed the money but there was no way I could get involved in something like that. If they were willing to pay me upwards of £20,000 for that one job, imagine what they'd do to me if I was unable to deliver the product!"

Mr. X feared for his own safety and turned the offer down.

McAfee says that many criminal organisations follow students and only approach individuals after they have studied them carefully. But Mr. X said that he felt the meeting was a total coincidence.

But he also said that the market for highly skilled electronics experts in the world of cyber crime is becoming increasingly lucrative.

"You can walk in to open air markets in East London and you can buy hacked electronics products like chipped Sky boxes, Sony PSPs, PlayStations and so forth. It's a massive underground industry, and most of the criminals can't do that kind of thing on their own.

Widespread crooked behaviour

"They need experts to come on board, and unfortunately with so many students graduating these days and not enough jobs, I suspect that more and more people are being dragged into the world of cyber crime because there's nothing else to do.

"I have no regrets about turning the offer down. I could do with the money, but there is no way I could live with myself for doing something like that. It's scandalous."