Script Kiddies Killing The Margins In Online Extortion

from the competitive-scammers dept

Over the past few years, we’ve been seeing more and more stories about online extortion scams. Some involve the threat of taking down websites with a denial of service attack if no payment is made, but increasingly common is the trojan-as-extortion trick. The scammer somehow tricks the victim into installing a trojan horse that then threatens to delete or lockup files… unless a payment is made. However, in the past, that payment has been on the order of $50 or $100 or so. However, it appears that as more script kiddies get access to the tools to do similar things, the price is going down. These days, it looks like the going price may be only $10.99 to keep your files safe. Who knew that extortion prices were subject to market pressures brought on by an increase in supply? Yes, this is a joke, but the next time you get one of these trojans demanding $50, be sure to tell the scammer that it’s way over the market price.

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Comments on “Script Kiddies Killing The Margins In Online Extortion”

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Todd says:

Doesn't make sense

Decreased prices can’t be caused by proliferation of trojan scripts. For consumers, the value of preventing a script kiddie from erasing your files is a product of a number of factors. In particular, it’s a product of (1) how much the consumer values her files; (2) the risk of the threat being real, and the consumer’s tolerance of that risk; (3) whether or not the consumer has reliable backups; etc. Those factors don’t change when you saturate the market with trojan scripts. Thus, if the average price of keeping your files safe has decreased, it’s from some factor other than market saturation.

Bernard says:

Re: Re: Doesn't make sense

Take a look at the post again and note this line:

Who knew that extortion prices were subject to market pressures brought on by an increase in supply? Yes, this is a joke

See that last bit? “Yes, this is a joke”

so Laugh and just have fun with the supply and demand note.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Doesn't make sense

See that last bit? “Yes, this is a joke”

What’s really scary was my original draft of this post didn’t include the “yes, this is a joke” line… but I added it, figuring that some people would completely miss the fact that it was a joke.

What I didn’t expect was that even after I explicitly said it was a joke, people still wouldn’t realize it was a joke.


Petréa Mitchell says:

Re: Doesn't make sense

There probably is a market force working here, though not supply/demand– it’s a convenience factor. At what price are users willing to pay just to get on with their day rather than go to all the trouble of restoring their files, contacting the police, etc.?

It’s an interesting economic question. On a purely rational basis, the users should pay up if it costs them less per year than a subscription to a service that blocks the trojans. I’m willing to bet, though, that a behavioral study would find people are willing to pay much more as long as each incident is really cheap.

The more things change, the
more they stay the same

David Friedman (profile) says:

Re: Doesn't make sense

“Those factors don’t change when you saturate the market with trojan scripts. “

Sure they do. The more trojans are out there the greater the incentive to back up more often. The more often you back up, the less you are willing to pay.

Also, the more trojans are out there, the more likely it is that their authors share information about which targets pay up, increasing the cost to you of a generous payment.

That said, I would expect the major market effect to be on factors other than price–better protected computers in general and fewer vulnerable computers per spammer. That’s analogous to the way in which the returns from burglary fall as the number of burglars increases.

Prankster says:

Re: Re: Fun Joke

What about a different approach…why not instead of trying to get the money directly instead link the payment to something easily traceable (paypal account?) and then blackmail that person into paying you money to stop…else they would get found out by authorities and get in legal trouble.

Sometimes I’m so deviuos I scare myself.

The Truth Beacon says:

How Saturation DOES affect racketeering...

Saturation does play an affect though, because as more scammers take to action, more people are being hit multiple times. Usually those people will learn the first time and invest large bundles in security or backups. So the next person infects them and gives the ultimatum at normal price, but the victim scoffs it and just restores a backup. This forces the scammer to either reduce their prices to a low enough level that the victim just says oh well to avoid the hastle, or they have to find new targets which isn’t nearly as easy as it used to be.

So Saturation in this scenario does play part of the scheme.

Anonymous Coward says:

maybe script kiddies can lower the average price. theyre willing to work for cheaper, since they live with their parents. there is some optimal price for this particular act of extortion… if you ask for too much, people will risk you zapping their files. Kids are more likely to be enticed by smaller amounts of money, when feeling out the market, simply because they dont need as much money as whichever hypothetical people are doing this professionally.

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