MS report finds phishing revenues overhyped

Posted by   Virus Bulletin on   Jan 13, 2009

Huge earnings may be myth, say researchers.

A report from Microsoft analysing the potential income of phishers claims that the amounts taken from duped victims of online scams may not be as high as numerous recent surveys have estimated.

A duo of researchers looked into various aspects of the phishing economy, and found that figures based on surveys may have grossly overestimated the money taken by phishers, with figures of hundreds of billions of dollars quoted by some surveys found way off the mark. Thanks in part to this hype, claim the researchers, the phishing economy is shrinking rapidly due to 'overgrazing' of a finite and declining pool of potential victims by a growing field of unskilled would-be phishers, tempted by the stories of easy pickings.

Analyst firm Gartner, whose survey figures come under fire from the report, have responded claiming that their survey methodology is sound and includes safeguards not taken into account by the Microsoft researchers.

The story is complicated by inter-phisher phishing, where less sophisticated newcomers are taken in by more experienced and knowledgeable crooks selling phishing kits with hidden backdoors, further diminishing potential rewards of phishing.

The detailed study is available as a PDF here, with a summary at ZDNet here and further comment from ZDNet blogger Dancho Danchev here.

Posted on 13 January 2009 by Virus Bulletin

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