The Price of Cybercrime: $445 Billion, a Year

By Steve Anderson June 10, 2014

It's well known that cybercrime has a price tag, even if the writing on said tag isn't immediately obvious. Between lost time and lost money outright, there are losses associated with cybercrime that come back to bite businesses—and therefore consumers—in ways that are often poorly understood. But a new study sponsored by McAfee and conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) put a clear face to the name, so to speak, and filled in that price tag legibly. Cybercrime worldwide combines to cost a grand total of around $445 billion per year.

It's not specifically that cybercriminals are walking away with $445 billion annually in collective pockets, but rather that there are several factors that go into that number. As described by McAfee's Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region's chief technology officer, Raj Samani, that number not only represents cash going out the door, but it also represents jobs lost and ideas stolen. A big breach like that staged at Target not only hurts the shoppers who shopped there, but it also hurts Target. Fewer people trust Target with information, fewer people shop at Target, and in turn, Target buys less merchandise. That hurts jobs with suppliers, and also hurts job numbers at Target itself that has less revenue with which to pay employees. Throw in other costs—fines that might be incurred for not having sufficient security established, credit monitoring services for those who were impacted by the cybercrime—and the whole thing can get downright staggering.

Just in the United States, the study detailed, somewhere around 200,000 jobs could be lost as a result of cybercrime. Worse yet, nearly one percent—0.9 percent—of gross domestic product (GDP) could be lost as a result of lost intellectual property, a particularly telling blow in a country which has a greater focus on the creation and dissemination of intellectual property. Still, this number is down substantially from a 2009 report from McAfee, which put the value of cybercrime somewhere around $1 trillion. In 2013, meanwhile, another report—also set up by McAfee and conducted by CSIS—pegged the number around $300 billion.

The problem, of course, is that the various ripple effects can be traced here may not necessarily be traced back to the cybercrime itself. When an incident happens, and there are firings in its wake, how many of the firings are directly related to the cybercrime, and how many were going to happen anyway, but now there's a more convenient scapegoat afoot to pin it on? By like token, how many new stores would have been opened had it not been necessary to patch up a cybercrime incident, and with those new stores, how many jobs were lost?

Still, despite the vagaries of the impact involved, the point is that there is still impact involved. Whether it's $445 billion, $45 billion, or $45, there's still an impact. That makes cybercrime a pretty important problem to take on, and one that in some cases people can work to protect against personally. While there are some things that just can't be stopped on the personal level—the Target hack might be biggest among these to come to mind—those that can, meanwhile, should be. An aggressive policy of strong passwords and antivirus systems should prove effective for most, as well as careful attention paid to security at the enterprise level. We may not be able to stop all cybercrime, but every bit of it that we can stop is a direct benefit to the economy as a whole.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

Contributing TechZone360 Writer

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