Cybercrime Losses More Than Drug Profits Says Symantec

Update: 08/02/12 The $388 billion cited Symantec has been discredited. According to ProPublica, “The report was not actually researched by Norton employees; it was outsourced to a market research firm, StrategyOne, which is owned by the public relations giant Edelman.”

In his classic 1984 novel Neuromancer and other early works, William Gibson used an analogy to the drug cartels to describe the organizational structure of "data cowboys" "rustling data" on the yet-to-be-invented "cyberspace." More than a quarter century later, one security vendor thinks Gibson might have gotten the parallel right.

In a new report from Symantec, the security vendor finds that last year victims lost $388 billion due to cybercrime. Symantec qualifies this value by adding it was based on "a survey conducted in 24 countries among adults 18-64. $388bn includes the financial cost to victims (including any amounts stolen/cost of resolution) and the value victims place on the time they have lost due to their cybercrime experiences."

Breaking it down further, Symantec says $274 billion was lost in time spent repairing the damage caused by cybercrime, and $114 billion in money stolen and money spent on resolving cybercrime.

By comparison, Symantec says the global black market in marijuana, cocaine and heroin combined is valued at $288 billion--which is profits, not losses, but still a very big number. Fortunately, cybercrime is not yet near the value of all global drug trafficking which is valued at $411 billion.