Free Content The Economics of Online Crime

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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: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/089533009789176825

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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  • The Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) attempts to fill a gap between the general interest press and most other academic economics journals. The journal aims to publish articles that will serve several goals: to synthesize and integrate lessons learned from active lines of economic research; to provide economic analysis of public policy issues; to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas among the fields of thinking; to offer readers an accessible source for state-of-the-art economic thinking; to suggest directions for future research; to provide insights and readings for classroom use; and to address issues relating to the economics profession.
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