From Silicon Valley to Dark Web Alley: The Impact of Tech Layoffs

Many developers go down the forbidden lane hoping for the lucrative salaries that illegal work comes with. However, not all that shines is gold
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The world is scared and holding on ever-so-tight to its job. With Microsoft laying off 11,000 employees, Google planning on putting another 12,000 on the chopping board, and GitHub losing 10% of its employee base, a new danger is en route. As per recent data, in 2023 alone, more than 100k tech employees have lost their jobs. The numbers are huge and many of these techies, desperate for a job, are likely to find themselves visiting job forums on the dark web. 

According to a Kaspersky report, 61% of the total job postings on the dark web is for developers. These jobs are in demand because of the attractive perks they bring along. These developers are not required to come to work, enjoy unlimited leaves and the flexibility to choose their schedule, tasks and scope of work.

(Median salaries offered, source: Kaspersky)

Additionally, just like a regular job, the positions on the dark web are varied, like full-time, part-time, traineeships, business relationships, partnerships, or team membership. These job postings also promise incentives like performance-based commission in addition to the salary. For instance, a company advert promised a salary of $10k along with a fixed percentage to be given as a bonus. 

Not that different from surface web jobs

Interestingly, these dark web organisations even have employee referral programs that offer bonuses to those who engage new workers. The only thing that differentiates the dark web job market from the legalised job market is the lack of legally binding documents. The selection criteria too isn’t very different from the regular. Since the employers are on the dark web to seek a highly skilled workforce, the selection criteria involve test assignments, CV/portfolio check, interviews, and even probation completion. 

Of the total jobs posted, Kaspersky reports that 82% had test assignments, while 37% of them asked for CVs and portfolios. About 26% of them conducted interviews and 2% even implemented a probation period. 

Additionally, the report claims that developers were among the best paid with salaries as high as $20,000 per month. Job requirements like “Cybercrooks needs professionals with specific skills to penetrate the infrastructure of an organisation, steal confidential data, or encrypt the system for subsequent extortion,” are pretty frequent. 

Moreover, since most of the payments on the dark web are made in crypto, the developers can easily evade any tax liability via methods like peer-to-peer transactions, which again becomes a headache for government agencies. 

 (A typical structure of how organisations work on the darkweb. Credit: Securelist)

Salaries are not that great either!

Many developers go down the forbidden lane hoping for the lucrative salaries that illegal work comes with. However, not all that shines is gold. As per the report, the salaries offered on the dark web do not vary much from what devs get from legitimate jobs. Still, individuals unhappy with their jobs/office culture veer towards the dark web. As per the report, a substantial percentage of employees in the legitimate economy quit their jobs to find similar employment on the dark web market. Further, market volatility, layoffs and pay cuts too push developers to explore the dark web job markets. 

The lack of stringent requirements for these jobs, too, makes it attractive to many. Some of these jobs do not ask for higher educational qualifications, military service records, or absence of prior convictions, etc. Moreover, the lack of awareness of potential repercussions and a casual attitude towards them are more reasons why people search for work on the dark web. However, working with underground teams carries significant risks. The participants may become deanonymised and face legal action, and even receiving payments is not guaranteed.

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Lokesh Choudhary
Tech-savvy storyteller with a knack for uncovering AI's hidden gems and dodging its potential pitfalls. 'Navigating the world of tech', one story at a time. You can reach me at:

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