Mayer isn't convinced. "Given that the majority of users are soliciting federal crimes, I'm skeptical that this community would adequately police itself," he said via email.
Hacker's List used to charge a 15 percent commission but has changed its sale model. It charges hackers US$3 to bid on a project and every time they communicate with a potential employer. Employers are charged $0.75 per communication.
Mayer contended that he found only 21 jobs that had been completed, in contrast to the 250 jobs that Tendell told the New York Times had been done.
The calculation is incorrect, Tendell said, as there are many jobs that have been completed but were privately listed and not accessible by Mayer's crawler.
The Hacker's List success stories cited by Tendell revolve more around online reputation management and investigative services than computer security.
One deal involved a woman who needed help getting some negative photos removed from a website, Tendell said. Another involved cyberbullying, where someone wanted to find the identity of the harasser.
Tendell argued that online reputation services would charge far more for those kinds of services than putting a project out for bidding on Hacker's List.
That's actually a strong business case for the site, as there very well may be a need for such freelance services for Internet consumers. But the website's main problem may be how it clumsily presents itself.
It clearly isn't for businesses, as no company would trust people on the site to probe their networks. On the other end, average consumers also aren't going to be in the market for penetration tests or security audits, Mayer said via email.
"Given how lucrative security consulting is, I don't see why a talented white hat would seek sketchy, low-ball offers," he wrote.
And that may be how Hacker's List has ended up where it is today: a large collection of listings from people seeking to change their grades, snoop on an email account or modestly spy on other people, all low-hanging fruit for even an average hacker.
One new posting on Friday offered between $200 and $300 for a task. "Looking to see what someone is getting on his Facebook messages and see if he's cheating on me," it read.
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