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Paying for Identity

Marcus Ranum and Bruce Schneier recently had another one of their "face-offs," this time, discussing anonymity on the Internet. Bruce argued strongly in favor of it, but then so did Marcus - with a cleverly nuanced argument.

The problem with Internet anonymity is that it's so incredibly cheap - fraud and spam is easy to do because it's almost free to adopt a new identity on the Internet. Many spam/scam techniques rely on creating bogus IDs wholesale. What if a usable identity actually cost money?

Marcus points out that such a thing would completely change the economics of Internet scams, especially if identities were seriously expensive. People who really needed a pseudonym (Deep Throat, Publius, etc.) would be able to get one at a cost. So we might be able to get the benefits of anonymity without the costs anonymity by default.

I need to continue these thoughts - they tie in with Ross Anderson's recent observations on Verified by Visa, and older reports on how scammers use holes in the domain name registration process to make - temporary - use of thousands of domain names in scam processes.

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