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Malware is big money

Website security in corporate America

The lighter side of profit making

One cannot deny the allure of big profit, low risk cyber crime. It's a shame that hackers aren't paid more heartily for legitimate work like developing new applications, securing networks, building new web businesses, and so on. I want to believe that few people go out intending to be criminals, but the disparity between legitimate pay for legitimate work and the criminal profit is sometimes too great.

It's scary, in fact, how much cyber crime has grown in recent years – even if the hard numbers and the Gartner polls are lagging behind the reality, I am not going out on a limb here. The FBI estimates cyber crime at somewhere around $8bn in the past two years against US businesses. The world number is surely larger.

Would there be less crime if developers and hackers were paid more? If the internet bubble hadn't burst? I'm not sure. But it's worth some thought.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum are the people with great ideas who build something new and get paid outrageously well for their work. The folks at YouTube may have made off like bandits (accompanying video), but they are an inspiration for everyone in the internet age. A small company of 65 people, which never turned a profit, was purchased for $1.65bn dollars in Google stock. That's the equivalent of 50 modest half-million dollar homes for every single employee. That's about about 1,159 Mini Cooper S-Type cars stacked end-to-end, for every single one of those hard working 65 employees. That's about... well, you get the idea.

Of course, I don't imagine the secretary of YouTube made off with $25.4m, because not everyone is equal...and not everyone's brain can be purchased for the same price. At $1.65bn dollars for a 65 employee company, do you think Google really liked YouTube's ideas?

We can't all hope to win the internet lottery like the folks at YouTube did, but I hope it's a sign of things to come: new investment in internet technologies by big companies. Maybe if there's a little more incentive for a developer to be creative and create something new, instead of working on that new trojan-virus-spam-phishing scam in his spare time, some of the misguided virus folk might be inspired by some legitimate grandeur and cash, and not be headed to the dark side after all. Maybe? Maybe not? Well, one can only hope.

This article originally appeared in Security Focus.

Copyright © 2006, SecurityFocus

Kelly Martin has been working with networks and security since 1986, and he's editor of SecurityFocus, Symantec's online magazine.

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