Category: markets

Security Prediction Markets?

In our first open thread, Michael Cloppert asked:

Considering the contributors to this blog often discuss security in
terms of economics, I’m curious what you (and any readers educated on
the topic) think about the utility of using prediction markets to forecast
compromises
.

So I’m generally a big fan of markets. I think markets are, as Hayek pointed out, a great way to extract information from systems. The prediction markets function by rewarding those who can make better predictions. So would this work for security, and predicting compromises?

I don’t think so, despite being a huge fan of the value of the chaos that emerges from markets.

Allow me to explain. There are two reasons why it won’t work. Let’s take Alice and Bob, market speculators. Both work in banks. Alice thinks her bank has great security (“oh, those password rules!”). So she bets that her bank has a low likelihood of breach. Bob, in contrast, thinks his bank has rotten security (“oh, those password rules!”). So he bets against it. Perhaps their models are more sophisticated, and I’ll return to that point.

As Alice buys, the price breach futures in her bank rises. As Bob sells, the price of his futures falls. (Assuming fixed numbers of trades, and that they’re not working for the same bank.)

But what do Alice and Bob really know? How much experience does either have to make accurate assessments of their employers’ security? We don’t talk about security failures. We don’t learn from each other’s failures, and so failure strikes arbitrarily.

So I’m not sure who the skilled predictors would be who would make money by entering the market. Without such skilled predictors, or people with better information, the market can’t extract the information.

Now, there may be information which is purely negative which could be usefully extracted. I doubt it, absent baselines that Alice and Bob can use to objectively assess what they see.

There may well be more sophisticated models, where people with more or better information could bet. Setting aside ethical or professional standards, auditors of various sorts might be able to play the market.

I don’t know that there are enough of them to trade effectively. A thinly traded security doesn’t offer up as much information as one that’s being heavily traded.

So I’m skeptical.

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