In an effort to keep their illegal businesses thriving, criminals working in certain underground black markets have put security measures into place on their web transaction systems in order to prevent making sales to undercover agents. One particular system raises a “pig alert” when it believes that an undercover law enforcement officer is trying to place an order.
When a “pig alert” is triggered, an image of an anthropomorphic pig dressed as a police officer brandishing a handgun appears in the place of a traditional checkout screen. The image features a message saying that a “pig” has been detected and that pigs are not allowed on the site. From there, the purchase will not go through.
The image has been known to be displayed on a prominent underground credit card market called Rescator. The underground market is known for selling millions of stolen credit cards. Undercover law enforcement officers try to purchase batches of these stolen credit cards in order to possibly identify a pattern and alert the victims.
The pig alert is usually triggered when a “suspicious” transaction is attempting to go through. This typically means that a large number of cards are trying to be ordered or that the buyer is using a network that is commonly associated with law enforcement.
Of course, the criminals will do everything in their power to prevent their scheme from being broken up. Thus, it’s no wonder that they would put certain security measures into place. But the fact that they use a “pig alert” and such a silly image really is quite laughable.
But while the thieves might have a sense of humor, the problem itself is no laughing matter. Rescator reportedly stole roughly 40 million credit and debit card numbers from Target. While the illegal operation allegedly only managed to sell about 1 to 3 million of these cards, that’s still millions of people who have been ripped off. In the process, Rescator earned millions of dollars. It has been reported that these credit cards sold for about $26.85 each. Along with Target, Home Depot and other prominent chains have also attacked by Rescator.
Law enforcement officers can much better combat the problem by obtaining a large number of cards. Once the officers have access to the cards, they can run a “common point of purchase” (CPP) analysis to help determine where the cards were stolen from. From there, they can try and limit the damage caused to the innocent victims.
However, criminals have been getting savvy about this tactic. In addition to their “pig alerts”, they have also been known to mix cards that were stolen from multiple vendors into a single sale, in order to prevent a CPP analysis from revealing a likely breach source. This ultimately prevents law enforcement from alerting victims and stopping the illegal operation.
For now, officers will continue to combat the problem so that they can help innocent victims of credit card fraud. But they will need to be smart about their operations, as the criminals will use every trick in the book to make off with a big payday.