False positives cause many promising detection technologies to be unworkable in practice. Attackers, we show, face this problem too. In deciding who to attack true positives are targets successfully attacked, while false positives are those that are attacked but yield nothing.
This allows us to view the attacker’s problem as a binary classification. The most profitable strategy requires accurately distinguishing viable from non-viable users, and balancing the relative costs of true and false positives. We show that as victim density decreases the fraction of viable users than can be profitably attacked drops dramatically. For example, a 10× reduction in density can produce a1000× reduction in the number of victims found. At very low victim densities the attacker faces a seemingly intractable Catch-22: unless he can distinguish viable from non-viable users with great accuracy the attacker cannot find enough victims to be profitable. However, only by finding large numbers of victims can he learn how to accurately distinguish the two.
Finally, this approach suggests an answer to the question in the title. Far-fetched tales of West African riches strike most as comical. Our analysis suggests that is an advantage to the attacker, not a disadvantage. Since his attack has a low density of victims the Nigerian scammer has an over-riding need to reduce false positives. By sending an email that repels all but the most gullible the scammer gets the most promising marks to self-select, and tilts the true to false positive ratio in his favor.
IM C R Y IN G
[legs give out]
When I got Robin Williams’ rider, I was very surprised by what I found. He actually had a requirement that for every single event or film he did, the company hiring him also had to hire a certain number of homeless people and put them to work. I never watched a Robin Williams movie the same way after that. I’m sure that on his own time and with his own money, he was working with these people in need, but he’d also decided to use his clout as an entertainer to make sure that production companies and event planners also learned the value of giving people a chance to work their way back. I wonder how many production companies continued the practice into their next non-Robin Williams project, as well as how many people got a chance at a job and the pride of earning an income, even temporarily, from his actions. He was a great multiplier of his impact. Let’s hope that impact lives on without him. Thanks, Robin Williams- not just for laughs, but also for a cool example."
— Brian Lord.org (via wonderwoundedhearers)
realest thing I’ve seen in a while
this was so amazing. so thought provoking. an eye-opening social criticism.
The Existential Coloring Book is packed to the gills with animal-people paired with dark quotes from philosophers and other people worried about the essential dark unknowability of the universe. Also, activities! From an existential connect-the-dots to a page where you can draw what Kierkegaard is thinking about, you’ll being sighing with joy as you work on them. This looks like a coloring book for kids, but it’s probably not a good idea to give it to one. This twenty-four page, 8” x 10-1/4” book is a great gift for philosophy majors or anyone else overwhelmed with a feeling of hopelessness. Features quotes from existential thinkers, mysterious pictures to color and mildly depressing activities.