The $2.1 Trillion Cost of Cybercrime Excludes Political Damage

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The scariest thing about the alleged Russian hacking attacks against the Democratic National Committee is not the apparent partisan nature of the attacks but that the data U.S. government agencies and private analysts say was taken by Russian intelligence services belonged to one of the two major U.S. political parties and that the data were then publicly released through WikiLeaks.

In a Thursday interview in the eastern city of Vladivostok, Russian President Vladimir Putin again denied that the Russian government had anything to do with the attack, but he did say that he believed that the “important thing is the content that was given to the public.”

Putin also dismissed the hubbub surrounding the attack. According to a report at Bloomberg, Putin said:

There’s no need to distract the public’s attention from the essence of the problem by raising some minor issues connected with the search for who did it. But I want to tell you again, I don’t know anything about it, and on a state level Russia has never done this.

Minor issues? That seems too coolly cavalier. Last week The Washington Post reported that Russian hackers are now setting their sights on voter-registration systems in some U.S. states.

State secrets and political concerns aside, hacking is very costly to its victims and will get more expensive as millions of devices are connected in the still-nascent Internet of Things (IoT). According to a 2015 study by Juniper Research, the cost of data breaches will reach $2.1 trillion globally by 2019, nearly four times the cost incurred in 2015. The study’s author said:

Currently, we aren’t seeing much dangerous mobile or IoT malware because it’s not profitable. The kind of threats we will see on these devices will be either ransomware, with consumers’ devices locked down until they pay the hackers to use their devices, or as part of botnets, where processing power is harnessed as part of a more lucrative hack. With the absence of a direct payout from IoT hacks, there is little motive for criminals to develop the required tools.

Holding data for ransom is bad enough. Holding the U.S. electoral process for ransom or sale is far worse, and $2.1 trillion would not even begin to count the toll.