Cyber crime costs the global economy almost US$600 billion

Cyber crime costs businesses close to US$600 billion, or 0.8% of global GDP which is up from a 2014 study that put global losses at about US$445 billion. This is according to a study by McAfee in partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The report, Economic impact of cyber crime – no slowing down, attributes the growth over three years to cyber criminals quickly adopting new technologies, the ease of engaging in cyber crime – including an expanding number of cyber crime centres – and the growing financial sophistication of top-tier cyber criminals.

The digital world has transformed almost every aspect of our lives, including risk and crime, so that crime is more efficient, less risky, more profitable and has never been easier to execute,” said Steve Grobman, Chief Technology Officer for McAfee. “Consider the use of ransomware, where criminals can outsource much of their work to skilled contractors. Ransomware-as-a-service cloud providers efficiently scale attacks to target millions of systems, and attacks are automated to require minimal human involvement. Add to these factors cryptocurrencies that ease rapid monetisation, while minimising the risk of arrest, and you must sadly conclude that the $600 billion cyber crime figure reflects the extent to which our technological accomplishments have transformed the criminal economy as dramatically as they have every other portion of our economy.

Banks remain the favorite target of cyber criminals, and nation states are the most dangerous source of cybercrime, the report finds. Russia, North Korea and Iran are the most active in hacking financial institutions, while China is the most active in cyber espionage.

Our research bore out the fact that Russia is the leader in cyber crime, reflecting the skill of its hacker community and its disdain for western law enforcement,” said James Lewis, senior vice president at CSIS. “North Korea is second in line, as the nation uses cryptocurrency theft to help fund its regime, and we’re now seeing an expanding number of cyber crime centers, including not only North Korea but also Brazil, India and Vietnam.

The report measures cyber crime in North America, Europe and Central Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa. Not surprisingly, cyber crime losses are greater in richer countries. However, the countries with the greatest losses (as a percentage of national income) are mid-tier nations that are digitised but not yet fully capable in cyber security.

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