Cybercrime Profits Approaching Those Of The Drug Trade?

The yearly cost of cybercrime may have surpassed that brought in by the illegal trades in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined, and could be rapidly approaching the entire value of global drug trafficking, according to a new survey conducted by security firm Symantec.

Cybercrime costsThe yearly cost of cybercrime may have surpassed that brought in by the illegal trades in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined, and could be rapidly approaching the entire value of global drug trafficking, according to a new survey conducted by security firm Symantec.

Annual losses resulting from cybercrime are valued at $388 billion, when accounting for both direct cash losses ($114 billion) and the value of time lost responding to attacks ($274 billion).  By contrast, illicit sales of marijuana, heroin and cocaine industry are an estimated $288 billion industry, with the drug trade, in its entirety, worth roughly $411 billion, Symantec said.

The report is  based on a survey of 20,000 people (including 4,500 children) in 24 countries. It was conducted for Symantec by the research firm StrategyOne. 

According to the study, 431 million adults, more than a million a day, fall victims to cybercrime each year, with 69 percent of those surveyed claiming to have been the victim of cybercrime in their lifetime. In fact, those surveyed reported having suffered online crime three times more than the old-fashioned, offline variety.  And, for the first time, ten percent of adults are reported to have experienced cybercrime on their mobile devices. 

Malware remains the most common form of cybercrime according to the study, accounting for 58 percent of attacks, followed by online and phishing scams, making up 11 percent and ten percent of online crime respectively. Reflecting the deep concern about online security, eighty four percent of those surveyed believe that cybercrime is an inherent risk when accessing the Internet.

“Often, because people feel the Internet is too complicated and the threats are unknown or ambiguous they default to a learned helplessness where they simply accept cybercrime as part of the cost of going online,” said Joseph LaBrie, Associate Professor, at Loyola Marymount University.

Making the “opportunity cost” argument, the study points out the resources lost to cybercrime. Cybercrime cost more than a hundred times UNICEF’s annual expenditures. The world could pay for the fight against malaria for the next 90 years with just one year’s worth of cybercrime losses and double education spending in sub-Saharan Africa for the next 38 years, the study’s authors note.

The study can be found here.

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