Google Takes Aim at Internet Crime

November 12, 2015

Google has a plan to thwart Internet crime: make it too expensive to be worth it. The company’s Online Security Blog examines the issue in “New Research: The Underground Market Fueling For-Profit Abuse.” The research was presented last June at the Workshop on the Economics of Information Security 2015; I recommend those interested check out the full report here.

The post describes the global online black market that has grown over the last ten years or so, where criminals trade in such items as stolen records, exploit kits, scam hosting, and access to compromised computers. The profit centers which transfer the shady funds rest upon an infrastructure, the pieces of which cost money. Google plans to do what it can to increase those costs. The write-up explains:

“Client and server-side security has dominated industry’s response to digital abuse over the last decade. The spectrum of solutions—automated software updates, personal anti-virus, network packet scanners, firewalls, spam filters, password managers, and two-factor authentication to name a few—all attempt to reduce the attack surface that criminals can penetrate. While these safeguards have significantly improved user security, they create an arms race: criminals adapt or find the subset of systems that remain vulnerable and resume operation.

“To overcome this reactive defense cycle, we are improving our approach to abuse fighting to also strike at the support infrastructure, financial centers, and actors that incentivize abuse. By exploring the value chain required to bulk register accounts, we were able to make Google accounts 30–40% more expensive on the black market. Success stories from our academic partners include disrupting payment processing for illegal pharmacies and counterfeit software outlets advertised by spam, cutting off access to fake accounts that pollute online services, and disabling the command and control infrastructure of botnets.”

Each of the links in the above quote goes to an in-depth paper, so there’s plenty of material to check out there. Society has been trying for centuries to put black markets out of business. Will the effort be more successful in the virtual realm?

Cynthia Murrell, November 12, 2015

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