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The Global Cost of Cybercrime: More Than $400 Billion Per Year


What’s the cost of cybercrime? A report (PDF) released on Monday puts the annual hit to the global economy at more than $400 billion.

If you find that figure eye-popping, the report by security software-maker McAfee (INTC) and the Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies calls it a “conservative” estimate. The high end of the range is $575 billion.

The report sets out to tally the losses from online crime, looking at such direct costs as theft of intellectual property and financial assets as well as indirect impacts that include damage to companies’ reputations from cyberattacks. While the data are incomplete, it’s  safe to say, as the report does, that “cybercrime is a growth industry.”

Some interesting points:

• The report suggests that cybercrime undercuts from 15 percent to 20 percent of the value created by the Internet economy, based on studies showing that it generates from $2 trillion to $3 trillion annually.
• The countries with the highest levels of cybercrime, relative to gross domestic product are the Netherlands and Germany, at 1.5 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively. For the U.S., it’s 0.64 percent, and for China it’s 0.63 percent.
• In the last year alone, more than 40 million people in the U.S. had their personal information stolen, along with 54 million in Turkey, 20 million in Korea, 16 million in Germany, and more than 20 million in China.

To lower the cost of cybercrime, international agreements on law enforcement and the application of standards and best practices for cybersecurity could help, according to the report. Governments also need to do a better job of measuring cybercrime. Without such concerted efforts, the only credible scenario is even higher costs as developing countries use the Internet more and crooks improve their abilities to steal—and cash in on what they steal.

Lawrence is a reporter for Bloomberg News in New York.

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