A report released by Norton (Symantec), a leader in cybersecurity that develops antivirus, anti-malware, and other related products and software, demonstrates just how pervasive cybercrime is in today’s digital age. The report was the final product of 19,636 interviews of adults, parents, children, and teachers from 24 developed and emerging countries.

cybercrimeThe report confirms that cybercrimes are becoming more common than normal “offline” crimes. This may be due to the fact that cybercriminals are very difficult to find, even as they continue to commit more criminal acts. Norton found that there are approximately 1,000,000 cybercrime victims every single day of the year. This amounts to a cost to society in the amount of $388,000,000,000 ($388 Billion) in just 2011. Of that amount, $114 billion accounts for money actually stolen or money spent to resolve cybercrimes. The remaining $274 billion of that money is in the form of time and costs to victims dealing with cybercrimes. To give a better idea of the staggering size of cybercrime’s financial costs, Norton compares the $388 billion cybercrime cost to the global black market of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin combined at $288 billion. In fact, the sum of all global drug trafficking is valued at $411 billion, only $23 billion more than cybercrime costs.

Unfortunately, the spread of cybercrime is unlikely to slow down as the number of people using the Internet, computers, and especially mobile devices increases. Of those surveyed, 69% of all adults have been a victim of cybercrime, and of those, 65% were victims in 2011 alone. The report shows that the more time one spends online, the more likely they are to become a victim of cybercrime. This is supported by their results which show that 75% of “millennials” (aged 18-31) have been victimized at some point compared to only 61% from the boomer generation. Usage of mobile devices to peruse the Internet is widespread and growing, with 44% of mobile device owners using their device to surf the Internet, and nearly 60% of millennials doing the same.

Even more disturbing is that the spread of cybercrime to these mobile users is just beginning. In 2011, 10% of all mobile device users online had fallen victim to cybercrime. Considering that the number of mobile users surfing the Internet is already large, and that the number will certainly go up as time goes on, it is safe to assume that mobile device related cybercrime is inevitably going to increase. In this society, even a minor increase in percentage of victimized users, will be a very large number of individuals affected.

Despite the staggering number of cybercrimes being committed on a yearly basis, the public perception of these crimes continues to underestimate how severe and common they are. Of the people interviewed, 44% had been a victim of cybercrime in the last year while only 15% had been a victim of some form of offline crime. That mean that cybercrime is nearly three times more common than “off-line” crimes. The perception problem is that, of the people surveyed, only 31% thought that they were more likely to become a victim of cybercrime than offline crime.

This misconception helps explain why 40% of adults surveyed did not have an up to date security suite to protect their personal data. Not only are consumers not adequately protecting themselves online, but only 21% of actual victims reported the cybercrime to the police after becoming a victim. This perception that cybercrimes aren’t quite the same as offline crimes might be reinforced by the lack of avenues to get help after becoming a cybercrime victim. Of those who reported suffering both cybercrime and offline crime, 59% felt there were fewer ways to get help after the cybercrime.

It is clear from Norton’s Cybercrime Report that cybercrime is here to stay and should be considered a high priority by law enforcement and consumers who use the Internet. People must be educated about the risks associated with Internet use and encouraged to protect their personal information in this digital world. The next time you are about to log onto the Internet from your desktop or mobile device, take a moment to consider whether you have taken enough steps to protect yourself from cybercrime.

“Norton Cybercrime Report 2011: Painting a Dismal Picture” was written by Sam Imandoust, Esq. He serves as a legal analyst for the Identity Theft Resource Center. We welcome you to post/reprint the above article, as written, giving credit to and linking back to ITRC_Blog.