Phishers as street-level drug dealers

Phishers as street-level drug dealers

Summary: The Microsoft report on the profitability of phishing and its associated economic constraints is reminiscent of another illegal enterprise: street-level drug dealing.Microsoft released a report stating that phishing is no where near as profitable as commonly believed.

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TOPICS: Security
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The Microsoft report on the profitability of phishing and its associated economic constraints is reminiscent of another illegal enterprise: street-level drug dealing. Microsoft released a report stating that phishing is no where near as profitable as commonly believed. If you have not read the report or Dancho's review of the paper, I suggest you head over there now. Since I am a little slow in the head, it took me a few days to process the results of the work, but I did reach a few insights of my own.

First of all, I was always bothered by the rate of phishing in the mail stream. Most security firms put it at around .1% to .5% of the total mail volume. If phishing was so profitable, it should have a volume that is comparable to that of spam, as the technologies to combat each in the e-mail stream are not that different. The low volume is only explained by the relatively unprofitability of phishing when compared to spam.

Second of all, there is another illegal activity that obeys similar economic constraints. While the public believes drug dealers are generally wealthy, sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh has shown that street-level drug dealers basically make around minimum wage. The corner drug trade is highly competitive for territory, requires little skill, and has plenty of laborers willing to step up to a newly opened slot at the bottom. In business-lingo, the amount of competition for market share at the bottom of the supply chain creates a downward pressure on labor costs. Apparently the same is true of phishing.

Now we are left to ponder the follow-up question. If phishing is already unprofitable for the people at the bottom, can we ever make the problem go away?

Topic: Security

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7 comments
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  • If you have an opportunity to make a buck, would you?

    Phishing is still free money. With very little skills and resources needed, the opportunity still exists. The problem is, it's much more easily tracked with the exchange of bank accounts and such. I personally don't think it is worth the risk. That compared to spam. Spam is dirt cheap with a good return, I just soon not earn money that way either.

    Money is money though. Anyone will try anything if they have their own personal meth habit to feed.
    nucrash
  • Breaking the minimum wage MYTH

    Street level drug dealers make around minimum wage?

    ...Being the "innocent soul" that I have always been I will be the first to let ALL OF YOU know that that is a load of crap. Dealers would not continue to do it if they only made $8/hr.

    From events and items I have witnessed in my own life I can assure ALL OF YOU that "street level dealers" make FAR more than minimum wage. Many whom go into the real world making legitimate money find it extremely difficult to handle themselves as the cash flow they once had is suddenly stricken and cut by more 50%.

    So please... Stop your assumption right now. I'm sure that people may say that to allow others to think they are doing better than drug dealers but the cold truth is that there is a reason why they keep at it and making minimum wage IS NOT IT.
    DroppinIT
  • RE: Phishers as street-level drug dealers

    Actually DroppinIT - those figures are based on actual studies made by a sociologist that took years to get to know the gangs, and find out facts, not assumptions or figures assumed or extrapolated by justice departments or sheriff's offices. If I remeber correctly, the author did this research for his doctorate - his facts, methodology, assumptions and approach would be ripped apart as part of his defence by a panel of very highly qualified experts with multiple doctorates. Even the smallest of errors would have had his dissertation rejected and he would have been sent back to rewrite it.

    Like all businesses, those at the top can be very wealthy indeed, but those in the bottom or middle struggle. The drug trade in the US is highly analogous to the franchising model used by fast food chains.

    Read Venkatesh's excellently researched study. Just because you may not like the figures at the end, does not make his study invalid or his data wrong.
    mikey3211
  • RE: Phishers as street-level drug dealers

    It's a simple matter of economics... I don't care what study you read. I could question any study's bias, of course, and wonder whether the report's aim was to show how unprofitable phishing was just to try and discourage it, or whether they were reporting "just the facts". I somehow doubt it's the latter.

    As far as the economics of phishing goes I can only say one thing - if it was not profitable, I wouldn't see it in my inbox almost every other day.
    Rafal.Los (RX8volution)
  • Drug dealers are still with us

    But most of the money is made by the organized crime bosses who control distribution, rather than by the dealers on the street (I'm told that bypassing the cartels is a particularly effective way to commit suicide). We're already seeing mobsters take control of spam; I have little doubt they will end up taking control of the phishing racket as well (and will make it more profitable by restricting competition).
    John L. Ries
  • RE: Phishers as street-level drug dealers

    Mozilla's phishing filter works great. warning me about every Phish.. I can't believe people fall for it with notices from banks and credit Unions.. My Bank uses the latest technology which makes it very hard for someone to impersonate them.. So I feel safe while watching the URL. that it is from.. The poor drug dealers are the one who are also users and the cost to maintain the habit keeps their earning down to the minimum Wage.
    ralphdb@...
  • RE: Phishers as street-level drug dealers

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