Daily Archives: 2011-02-17

Why the Cabinet Office's £27bn cyber crime cost estimate is meaningless

Today the UK Cabinet Office released a report written by Detica. The report concluded that the annual cost of cyber crime in UK is £27bn. That’s less than $1 trillion, as AT&T’s Ed Amoroso testified before the US Congress in 2009. But it’s still a very large number, approximately 2% of UK GDP. If the total is accurate, then cyber crime is a very serious problem of utmost national importance.

Unfortunately, much of the total cost is based on questionable calculations that are impossible for outsiders to verify. 60% of the total cost is ascribed to intellectual property theft (i.e., business secrets not copied music and films) and espionage. The report does describe a methodology for how it arrived at the figures. However, several key details are lacking. To calculate the IP and espionage losses, the authors first calculated measures of each sector’s value to the economy. Then they qualitatively assessed how lucrative and feasible these attacks would be in each sector.

This is where trouble arises. Based on these assessments, the authors assigned a sector-specific probability of theft, one for the best-, worst- and average cases. Unfortunately, these probabilities are not specified in the report, and no detailed rationale is given for their assignment. Are the probabilities based on surveys of firms that have fallen victim to these particular types of crime? Or is it a number simply pulled from the air based on the hunch of the authors? It is impossible to determine from the report.
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