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Everything You Know About Password-Stealing Is Wrong
Cormac Herley, Microsoft
The popular and trade presses are full of stories of the easy billions being made in cybercrime. Cybercriminals extract money effortlessly from consumers and small businesses. Trillion dollar estimates are tossed around, the NSA director refers to cybercrime as "the greatest transfer of wealth in history," and so on. We argue that this is all wrong. Emptying compromised accounts is extremely hard. Passwords are not the bottleneck in the cybercrime pipeline. Underground markets are not thriving. Credential-stealing, far from being a recession-proof gold-mine, is a terrible business opportunity. Widely circulated cybercrime estimates are based on absurdly bad statistical methods and are wholly unreliable.
Cormac Herley is a Principal Researcher with Microsoft Research. His interests include economics, authentication, and data-driven security. He's been with MSR since 1999, and has a PhD from Columbia University.
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