Nobody buys gold for the price of silver
I finally got around to reading an interesting paper titled Nobody Sells Gold for the Price of Silver: Dishonesty, Uncertainty and the Underground Economy. The finding is quite interesting although in consideration, quite plausible. Abstract follows (emphasis is mine):
Using basic arguments from economics we show that the IRC markets studied[trading stolen identities, botnets, etc.] represent classic examples of lemon markets. The ever-present rippers who cheat other participants ensure that the market cannot operate effectively. Their presence represents a tax on every transaction. Those who form gangs and alliances avoid this tax, enjoy a lower cost basis and higher profit. This suggests a two tier underground economy where organization is the route to profit. The IRC markets appear to be the lower tier, and are occupied by those without skills or alliances, newcomers, and those who seek to cheat them. The goods offered for sale on these markets are those that are easy to acquire, but hard to monetize. We find that estimates of the size of the IRC markets are enormously exaggerated. Finally, we find that defenders recruit their own opponents by publicizing exaggerated estimates of the rewards of cybercrime. Those so recruited inhabit the lower tier; they produce very little profit, but contribute greatly to the externalities of cybercrime.
March 19, 2010