Have a flutter on a worm

When will the next big worm strike be? Who will be the next high-profile victim of a DDoS attack? If you know, you could make money at Tradesports.com

Controversial Irish Web site Tradesports.com will soon accept wagers on IT security disasters, such as the timing of the next big Windows virus or the most likely victim of a future DDoS attack.

Futures market broker Tradesports.com has been criticised in the past for allowing its customers to gamble on controversial "contracts" or events, such as the capture of Osama Bin Laden or the formation of a Palestinian state. The company's latest idea is to allow punters to trade on the likelihood of IT security disasters.

John Delaney, chief executive of TradeSports.com, told ZDNet UK that the date a new Windows virus will strike or when a certain company will be the victim of a DDoS attack, are "exactly the types of contracts" the company is looking to host.

"By the end of the year we will have contracts relating to technology issues. Several people have contacted us for contracts related to DDoS attacks -- such as 'when will eBay be brought down by a DDoS attack?'," said Delaney.

Antivirus firm Sophos' senior technical consultant Graham Cluley said that although the TradeSports could offer the IT industry a "temperature check" of the current security status, the site is unlikely to be of any use when planning security strategy.

"Just knowing a new worm may be on the way doesn't help you protect yourself any better because you don't know if it is going to be an MSBlast or Sasser-type worm or an IM worm," said Cluley.

Cluley said that companies would be better spending their money on more security than risking it on the exchange.

"Rather putting money on this, they should take the advice of the security industry. There will be more worms -- I have a 100 percent certainty -- and it is a sure bet. Spend your money on IT security rather than betting it on the equivalent of a horse," said Cluley.

Tradesports.com is already covering more than just the IT industry's security problems. It is currently running a book on how Google's shares will perform on their first day of trading after the long-awaited IPO.

According to the latest betting (lunchtime on Monday) there is a 74 percent chance the share price will be higher, a 21 percent chance it will be 25+ percent higher and a 7.5 percent chance it will be 50+ percent higher at the end of the first day's trading.

Delaney said the Google prices are interesting because Google's IPO is unusual in that it is being handled like an auction, so in theory the share price ought to remain quite stable.

"An auction supposedly establishes fair value, but the market is saying there will be such unmatched retail interest that there is a 7.5 percent chance of a 50 percent rally," said Delaney.

As the Web site expands, Delaney said the biggest hurdle in creating new contracts is setting their initial price. But as more people embrace the idea, he expects more contracts to appear on the site.

"The only thing that prohibits us is finding the market makers -- the people that make the two-sided prices. But it is only a matter of time," said Delaney.