Title

The Economics of Online Crime

Publication Date

Summer 2009

Abstract

This paper will focus on online crime, which has taken off as a serious industry since about 2004. Until then, much of the online nuisance came from amateur hackers who defaced websites and wrote malicious software in pursuit of bragging rights. But now criminal networks have emerged -- online black markets in which the bad guys trade with each other, with criminals taking on specialized roles. Just as in Adam Smith's pin factory, specialization has led to impressive productivity gains, even though the subject is now bank card PINs rather than metal ones. Someone who can collect bank card and PIN data, electronic banking passwords, and the information needed to apply for credit in someone else's name can sell these data online to anonymous brokers. The brokers in turn sell the credentials to specialist cashiers who steal and then launder the money. We will examine the data on online crime; discuss the collective-action aspects of the problem; demonstrate how agile attackers shift across national borders as earlier targets wise up to their tactics; describe ways to improve law-enforcement coordination; and we explore how defenders' incentives affect the outcomes.

Document Type

Article

Keywords

security economics, cybercrime

Disciplines

Information Security | Other Economics

DOI

10.1257/jep.23.3.3

Rights

Copyright © 2009 by the American Economic Association. Permission to make digital or hard copies of part or all of American Economic Association publications for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not distributed for profit or direct commercial advantage and that copies show this notice on the first page or initial screen of a display along with the full citation, including the name of the author. Copyrights for components of this work owned by others than AEA must be honored. Abstracting with credit is permitted. The author has the right to republish, post on servers, redistribute to lists and use any component of this work in other works. For others to do so requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. Permissions may be requested from the American Economic Association Administrative Office.

Source

Journal of Economic Perspectives

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to Allan Friedman, Steven Murdoch, and Andrew Odlyzko,who read this paper in draft and made helpful comments.

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