Sitting in the SuperNova2007 conference listening to the Dark Economy panel talk about the underground economy that tries to take advantage of of the huge (and growing) revenue around search marketing economies to siphon that revenue in black hat sorts of ways (splogs, phishing and identity theft to name a few). About 2 of the 4 panelists are fairly good, but I see a whole lot of people cleaning out their email in-box. Seems like a lot of money to spend to clean out your email but maybe just a sign of our hectic work lives that we can only create free time to do these mundane tasks by attending conferences...
Anyway, here are some tidbits from that panel:
Amazing to witness the scope of economic activity that has grown up around search. Google has created a wonderful mechanism to bring buyers and sellers of content together in an affinity area. The reason why search works so well is that there is a high relevance of intent. Google has created a new economy around search. Marketplaces have developed that allow companies and marketers to bid on groups of words. Also entire affiliate economy who use tools and deliver users or buyers at certain price point. It works and is democratized. Has enabled an entire micro-economy around search itself. Mis-spelled URLs account to 10-12% of search engine revenue according to the CEO of Tucows. Yipes!
(Former exec at Paypal) Your personal information, cc number, driver license, ssn, usernames and passwords costs about $14 to access. There's a very vague sense of what's legal or illegal because it crosses international boundaries and subject to a variety of laws. Phishing scams alone acounted for $1B in losses last year. Most states have spam laws on the books but are not really enforceable, more of a public relations effort. One scary example in the spam world is that Six-Apart was using some software to retaliate against spammers and the spammers attacked back, effectively bringing down the Canadian Internet backbone. The service provider effectively gave up Six-Apart so that the other hundreds of thousands of Canadian sites would remain up. I'm assuming that is to say they shut down domain name resolution for Six-Apart and then the spammers stopped attacking the DNS provider.