Cybercrime profits estimated at $1.5 trillion


New criminal platforms and a booming cybercrime economy have resulted in $1.5 trillion in illicit profits being acquired, laundered, spent and reinvested by attackers. This was one of the findings of a study commissioned by Bromium, a virtualisation-based endpoint security company.

Called ‘Into the Web of Profit’, the study was conducted by Dr Mike McGuire, senior lecturer in criminology at Surrey University, and draws from first-hand interviews with convicted cybercriminals, data from international law enforcement agencies, financial institutions, and covert observations conducted across the dark Web.

According to Bromium, the study is one of the first studies to examine the dynamics of cybercrime by scrutinising revenue flow and profit distribution, instead of the mechanisms of cybercrime alone.

It looks at the cybercrime-based economy and the professionalisation of cybercrime. “This economy has become a self-sustaining system, an interconnected Web of profit that blurs the lines between the legitimate and illegitimate.”

The research shows cybercriminal revenues worldwide of at least $1.5 trillion, the same as the GDP of Russia, a number Bromium calls a ‘conservative estimate’. “If cybercrime was a country, it would have the 13th highest GDP in the world.”

This figure includes $860 billion made from illicit or illegal online markets, $500 billion from theft of trade secrets and intellectual property, $160 billion in data trading, $1.6 billion for Crimeware-as-a-Service, and $1 billion from ransomware.

According to the report, the dark economy is made up of a variety of operations, from large ‘multinational’ operations that rake in profits of over $1 billion, to SME-style entities where profits of between $300 00 and $50 000 are expected.

In addition, the research revealed an emergence of ‘platform criminality’, mirroring the platform capitalism model employed by businesses such as Uber and Amazon, where data itself is the commodity. New criminality models are enabled by these platforms, which, in turn, fund broader scourges such as human trafficking, drugs and terrorism.

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