Using Markets and Spam to Combat Malware
Zatko, Sarah Lieberman
Van Alstyne, Marshall
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CitationZatko, Sarah. "Using Markets and Spam to Combat Malware (MA Thesis)", Technical Report BUCS-TR-2009-016, Computer Science Department, Boston University, May 11, 2009. [Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/2144/1740]
We propose an economic mechanism to reduce the incidence of malware that delivers spam. Earlier research proposed attention markets as a solution for unwanted messages, and showed they could provide more net benefit than alternatives such as filtering and taxes. Because it uses a currency system, Attention Bonds faces a challenge. Zombies, botnets, and various forms of malware might steal valuable currency instead of stealing unused CPU cycles. We resolve this problem by taking advantage of the fact that the spam-bot problem has been reduced to financial fraud. As such, the large body of existing work in that realm can be brought to bear. By drawing an analogy between sending and spending, we show how a market mechanism can detect and prevent spam malware. We prove that by using a currency (i) each instance of spam increases the probability of detecting infections, and (ii) the value of eradicating infections can justify insuring users against fraud. This approach attacks spam at the source, a virtue missing from filters that attack spam at the destination. Additionally, the exchange of currency provides signals of interest that can improve the targeting of ads. ISPs benefit from data management services and consumers benefit from the higher average value of messages they receive. We explore these and other secondary effects of attention markets, and find them to offer, on the whole, attractive economic benefits for all – including consumers, advertisers, and the ISPs.