Global Cybercrime Costs $114 Billion a Year

Consumers and corporations may want to turn off their PCs and return to the days when all transactions were done with paper and cash.

“For the first time a Norton study calculates the cost of global cybercrime: $114 billion annually,” parent company Symantec (NASDAQ: SYMC) reports. The problem affected a total of 431 million people last year. The online security company has no real solutions to offer other than that people can buy its software. “Forty-one percent of adults indicated they don’t have an up to date security software suite to protect their personal information online.” The research, in other words, is an excellent marketing tool.

The data, Symantec says, point to two other important trends. Nearly 70% of people online have been victims of cybercrime during their lifetimes. And the people most at risk are men ages 18 to 34 who use mobile devices to connect to the internet. In other words, PCs pose a broadly dangerous entry point for cybercriminals, but smartphones are worse. The information is especially troubling because people use smartphones with increasing frequency as the primary tools for their online work and play.

What do people expect? Hackers can break down firewalls at large government agencies, major corporations, and software companies like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG). Consumers can take precautions, but theft is part of the price people pay to use online technology and e-commerce. It used to be that those who use cash machines were at risk. Before that, criminals would forge checks. And before that one of the risks was counterfeit money. People who want to steal generally can stay one step ahead of those they want to steal from.

The Symantec research only tells people what they know, or should know. Other than under a mattress, there is no safe place to protect money. The costs of progress come with the costs of fraud and mischief. That has not changed and will not.

Douglas A. McIntyre