Cyber crime costs global economy $600B annually, experts estimate

Cyber crime costs global economy $600B annually, experts estimate
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Experts estimate in a new analysis that cyber crime costs the global economy as much as $600 billion annually, underscoring the massive growth in malicious activity online in recent years.

The report, jointly released Wednesday by U.S.-based cybersecurity firm McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies, follows a series of high-profile breaches and cyberattacks over the past year, including the massive Equifax data breach and global “WannaCry” and “NotPetya” attacks.

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The report highlights the increasing threat posed by nation-state hackers and tools like ransomware. 

Its new estimate of annual costs to businesses is a significant increase over the approximately $150 billion that the cybersecurity firm and the think tank arrived at in 2014. 

“We were not expecting as dramatic an increase as we found,” James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert and senior vice president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said at an event to release the report on Wednesday. 

The massive growth is largely attributed to the proliferation of new technologies, as well as the  financial sophistication of top-notch criminal hackers and cyber crime-as-a-service. The experts estimate that cyber crime will continue to grow with the rapid expansion of the ecosystem of internet-connected devices, commonly known as the “internet of things.”

“The trend line is, this situation is getting worse, not better,” Howard Marshall, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s cyber division, said Wednesday. “A lot of that is through the advancement of technology and the integration of technology into cyber crime.”

The report names Russia as the global leader in cyber crime, followed by North Korea and Iran. 

Ransomware is singled out as the most rapidly growing cyber crime tool, as would-be hackers find it increasingly easy to execute attacks because they can purchase malware kits on the dark web.

“You can rent botnets, you can rent malware programs, you can buy malware, you can buy ransomware. Ransomware is a commodity industry now, at the low end," Lewis said. “This is so easy now because it’s become a market.”

The experts also note that cryptocurrencies like bitcoin have enabled hackers to successfully reap the benefits of cyber crime without punishment. 

The report comes just days after the White House released an analysis estimating that cyber crime cost the American economy between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016.