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Crime as Legitimate Local Business

In a recent Security Fix, Brian Krebs looks at cyber criminal communities that are centered in Eastern Europe. A fundamental feature is that these communities discourage attacks on their own community. For example, a site that trades in stolen credit information refuses to use data from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, the former Soviet empire).

While Krebs' article points out that such attitudes don't really prevent attacks on CIS citizens, it is interesting that the criminal community sees it that way. Krebs suspects it's because local law enforcement is more tolerant. I also suspect local citizens are more tolerant. No doubt it looks clever and respectable to fleece people on the other side of the planet using modern technology.I remember visiting a very old city overseas with a centuries-long history of tourism and not much to show for it. Outsiders visited the oldest parts of the city at their own risk. People living there considered everyone from outside as "fair game" for petty theft if nothing worse.

But I don't suggest that this is merely the province of inbred locals living in centuries-old stone hovels. If we look at the history of stock exchanges, it's clear that insiders have often played games of questionable morality in order to trick out-of-towners into handing over valuable enterprises. While we might hope and pray that regulations have eliminated the worst abuses in the 20th century, there are good reasons that Wall Street giants were called "Robber Barons" in the 19th century.

One of the essential bits of "free trade" is that people follow some basic rules about what is fair and legal. We don't want people buying Russian natural gas and paying for them with credit card info stolen from the US.

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