We’re Not Talking Peanuts Here, Folks

We have recently seen some reports that give some idea of the real size of the cybercrime problem.

Recently Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Examiner Dave Nelson reported that online banking fraud involving the electronic transfer of funds cost US banks more than $40 million dollars per month for the third quarter of 2009. The FDIC receives a variety of confidential reports from financial institutions, which allow it to generate the estimates.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) recently released its 2009 Internet Crime Report. The IC3 is a coalition between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center (NWC3). It is predominantly set up to act as a vehicle to receive, develop and refer criminal complaints regarding cybercrime. Now, in their annual report there are many very interesting statistics and I’m sure we’ll make further observations about them in later blog entries. The one I’d like to point out is the fact that the IC3 report stated that they received 336,655 complaints which represented a 22% increase from 2008. These complaints represent a total dollar loss of US$560 million in 2009, up from US$265 million in 2008. Now remember, this basically represents complaints from people only in the USA and only those that filled out a complaint to the IC3. So I can’t help but think that this is represents the tip of the iceberg.

And remember, these figures relate only to the USA. Multiply those amounts many times over to give you some idea of the size of the losses on a global basis. The amount of money that is lost to global cybercrime activities is massive. Yet it seems to continue to be the criminal world’s best kept secret.

The extent & pervasiveness of these crimes seem to elude the general public’s awareness. Sure people are becoming more aware as they become a victim of these crimes or hear stories from their friends about what happened to them. But in many cases the losses from each of these crimes are not huge, and at the moment many bank customers can have their losses reimbursed by the bank, so the customer doesn’t think it’s a serious problem.

And because the size of the problem is often not understood, it seems to slip under the radar and often isn’t even considered a serious problem. If you disagree with me, just have a look at the size of the anti-drug squad in any given police force and compare that to their anti-cybercrime squad – if they have one at all. The drug trade problem has plenty of awareness in the public eye and plenty of focus from law enforcement. Yet in fact the global cybercrime trade makes more money these days than the global drug trade.

This problem needs the attention that it deserves. The cybercrime problem is becoming one of the biggest crime problems that we are facing in society today. Yet it is still largely treated as a sideshow, merely a curiosity by the general media & as a result the general public, too.

We need to raise everyone’s awareness and understanding of the size of the problem, bolster our cybercrime related laws and law enforcement agency’s resources and powers, and improve our cyber security solutions in order to get this problem under control.

We’re not talking about peanuts here. We’re talking about seriously large amounts of money.

Craig Johnston
Senior Cybercrime Research Analyst

Author , ESET

  • matt

    I thinks 'only' 92% complaints came from USA, other 27k came from elsewhere. Lots of victims are probably too embarassed to report smaller scams, $560m is a shocking number.

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