When we think of the mafia our minds are initially cast toward the New York based crime families as opposed to the many others, and the shocking but kind of glamorized films and television shows like The Godfather, Scarface, Goodfellas, The Untouchables, Gotti and the Sopranos, and the harder hitting unedited and non-glamorized, violent true stories of the likes of Al Capone, Frank Costello, Joe Colombo and Tony Accardo, and though we think about the blood, guts, gore and lavish lifestyles we don’t think about the extremely well organised crime part of the equation straightaway, we certainly know about it but we don’t necessarily go beyond scratching the surface. 

In essence organised crime is turning laundered cash from racketeering into clean legitimate money through one of many legitimate run businesses, the Mafia not only owned such things as film, TV and record label production companies, they owned the recording studios and the artist as well, not only that they likely owned the bars and restaurants these celebrities frequented  too. And just in case, they were heavily involved (where they could be) in government and local law enforcement, any problems? “Ah forget about it!”

Now the obvious issue with this line of crime is physical cash, in this day and age it’s far more difficult for cash to be laundered through a business and into a bank account in such volume without the transaction being triggering by an algorithmic alarm to the banks security investigations team, so how does the Mafia of today get around these types of issues? Cyber crime of course. The Mafia have not only diversified their business models but also the means in which their transactions are made, and with the more recent rise in crypto currencies the means to keeping these transactions a secret and impossible to trace has certainly worked in their favour.


Two years ago I remember reading an article about the Mafia, namely the Russian Mafia’s takeover of cybercrime, however though there was definitely an increase in their involvement in the hacking field, the Mafia only made up a tiny proportion of the bigger picture, it was really more of people’s imaginations running wild popularising the idea that the Mafia had heavy control. A study carried out by the Director of the Human CyberCriminal Project at the University of Oxford Johnathan Lusthaus in 2018 confirmed this, Jonathan said:

“A mafia isn’t satisfied with controlling one criminal market. They want to control all criminal markets. They want to monopolize all of those industries. Every criminal activity will be under their umbrella…” “What we are seeing is some involvement – but not in every case. A lot of former cyber criminals I interviewed don’t want to be involved with (Mafias),” he said. “You have street guys collaborating with nerds. But if you’re some sort of technical guy, do you really want to be in business with organized crime, with someone who can do you physical harm?”

And as we have seen through the likes of the dark web the Mafia have certainly made good use of cyberspace. However, since that study 3 years ago much seems to have changed in what Johnathan was rightly saying, because money like all these things, talks, it is the language that both the cyber criminal and Mafia alike understand and relish upon, especially when the market is estimated to be worth $445-600 billion year on year, so combining the Mafia’s wealth, connections and ability to provide all that a hacker would pretty much need, as well as bringing together the best hackers to work alongside each other, certainly makes sense and one hell of a cybercriminal powerhouse.

Many of us have been witness to these types of attacks; entire networks being taken down by ransomware and malware, with popup notices demanding cryptocurrency payments to release the computer from the attack. These large scale attacks are rarely the hand of the loan shark and generally require a team of people to execute them successfully, these teams are otherwise known as hacking syndicates. In the last few years these syndicates have grown exponentially and it is believed that this rapid growth has been driven by the Mafia, though we may ‘never’ actually find out for sure who is behind these attacks we know they’re here to stay and will become more frequent, or at least until cryptocurrencies finally become regulated and monitored as they should have done.

Photo by Ana Itonishvili on Unsplash