NSA Director General Keith Alexander has recently been using the $1 Trillion figure in speeches, as has Senators Leiberman and Collins, whose Cybersecurity Act of 2012 failed to be passed by the Senate this week.
The $1 Trillion figure is attributed to anti-virus vendor McAfee, while the $388 million in IP losses number belongs to Symantec's Norton division. According to ProPublica, "The report was not actually researched by Norton employees; it was outsourced to a market research firm, StrategyOne, which is owned by the public relations giant Edelman."
The problem with both of these figures — $1Trillion and $388 million — is, as Microsoft researchers pointed out earlier this year in a report report fittingly titled "Sex, Lies, and Cybercrime", they are studded with outliers. In one example they cite that a single individual who claims $50,000 losses, in an N = 1000 person survey, is enough to extrapolate a $10 billion loss over the population. In another, one unverified claim of $7,500 in phishing losses translates into $1.5 billion over the population.
The Microsoft researchers concluded: "Are we really producing cyber-crime estimates where 75% of the estimate comes from the unverified self-reported answers of one or two people? Unfortunately, it appears so. Can any faith whatever be placed in the surveys we have? No, it appears not.""
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