Cybercrime costs rival those of illegal drug trafficking

Young males in emerging markets are the most likely to fall victim to cybercrime, whose total cost per year is approaching the scale of illegal drug trafficking worldwide, according to a study by the Norton division of Symantec.

The 2011 Norton Cybercrime Report estimates the total cost of cybercrime at $388 billion per year, which includes $114 billion in direct theft and time spent resolving attacks plus another $274 billion for productive time victims lost due to cybercrimes being committed against them.

In all, 589 million have been affected by cybercrime, 431 million of them in the past 12 months, the report says. The study the report is based on was carried out in 24 countries and included 19,636 interviews.

The report says that compares to global drug trafficking, estimated at $411 billion. Cybercrime already surpasses the total of black market marijuana and cocaine sales, Norton says, which totals $288 billion.

The most common form crime takes is viruses and malware, with 54% experiencing them, followed by online scams (11%) and phishing (10%). Norton measured mobile phone crime and found that 10% fell victim, including smishing – phishing by SMS.

Tracking in all 24 countries, the company found that 1 million people per day became victims of cybercrime. The more time individuals spend online, the more likely they were to be hit. Of those spending 49 hours online per week, 79% were victims, while the number was 64% for those who spent 24 hours or less online.

Millennials (75%) are more likely than Baby Boomers (61%) to be victims, and adults in emerging markets (80%) are hit at a higher rate than those in mature markets (64%), the study says.

Those numbers are three times higher than the number of victims of physical crimes. Nevertheless, Norton notes that 70% of those surveyed thought they would be safer online than in the real world over the next 12 months.

Some of the problem is preventable, Norton says, noting that 41% of adults don't have updated security suites on their computers.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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