Each year, computer crime around the world adds up to as much as $575 billion, according to new analysis sponsored by the security firm McAfee.
The maximum estimated ding to the global economy, which is larger than the GDPs of Sweden, South Africa and Poland, can do serious damage, said analysts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The impact is only likely to increase as more and more businesses move their operations online.
“Governments need to begin serious, systematic effort to collect and publish data on cybercrime to help countries and companies make better choices about risk and policy.”
A conservative estimate put the annual global losses closer to $375 billion, which is still about the same size as the economy of Thailand.
In the U.S., the thefts can lead to the loss of about 200,000 jobs in sectors like manufacturing.
Most of the theft is targeted on intellectual property, financial fraud and confidential business information, but major losses also accrue from opportunities that are lost because of hackers. The majority of incidents go unreported, analysts said in the paper.
Researchers estimated that the theft of personal information and records alone could cost as much as $160 billion per year. About 15 percent of the U.S. population, or 40 million people, have had their personal information stolen by hackers, they added.
Unless companies do a better job beefing up security and governments do more to account for losses, the impacts are only likely to grow.
“We do not see a credible scenario in which cybercrime losses diminish,” the study's authors wrote. “The outlook for the world is increased losses and slower growth.”
So far, Congress has been unable to confront the challenge of cybersecurity, despite its best efforts. Legislation specifically targeting hackers has faced steep obstacles in the form of jurisdictional overlap and lawmakers' competing priorities.
Many analysts were hopeful that last year’s high profile data breach at Target could spur action on the issue, but so far legislation introduced in the wake of that attack has stalled.