When Simple is Near-Optimal in Security Games


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Fraudulent or illegal activities are ubiquitous across applications and involve users bypassing the rule of law, often with the strategic aim of obtaining some benefit that would otherwise be unattainable within the bounds of lawful conduct. However, user fraud is detrimental, as it may compromise safety or impose disproportionate negative externalities on particular population groups. To mitigate the potential harms of user fraud, we study the problem of policing such fraud as a security game between an administrator and users. In this game, an administrator deploys R security resources (e.g., police officers) across L locations and levies fines against users engaging in fraud at those locations. For this security game, we study both welfare and revenue maximization administrator objectives. In both settings, we show that computing the optimal administrator strategy is NP-hard and develop natural greedy algorithm variants for the respective settings that achieve at least half the welfare or revenue as the welfare-maximizing or revenue-maximizing solutions, respectively. We also establish a resource augmentation guarantee that our proposed greedy algorithms with one extra resource, i.e., R+1 resources, achieve at least the same welfare (revenue) as the welfare-maximizing (revenue-maximizing) outcome with R resources. Finally, since the welfare and revenue-maximizing solutions can differ significantly, we present a framework inspired by contract theory, wherein a revenue-maximizing administrator is compensated through contracts for the welfare it contributes. Beyond extending our theoretical results in the welfare and revenue maximization settings to studying equilibrium strategies in the contract game, we also present numerical experiments highlighting the efficacy of contracts in bridging the gap between the revenue and welfare-maximizing administrator outcomes.
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