Global Cyberspace Is Safer than You Think: Real Trends in Cybercrime

Global Commission on Internet Governance Paper Series, No. 16

32 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2015 Last revised: 16 Oct 2015

Date Written: July 15, 2015

Abstract

What are the real trends in cybercrime? Recent media coverage has been rife with stories of large-scale data breaches, hacks and online financial crime. Information technology (IT) security firms such as Norton Symantec and Kaspersky Labs publish yearly reports that generally show the security of cyberspace to be poor and often getting worse. This paper argues that the level of security in cyberspace is actually far better than the picture described by media accounts and IT security reports. Currently, numbers on the occurrence of cybercrime are almost always depicted in either absolute (1,000 attacks per year) or as year-over-year percentage change terms (50 percent more attacks in 2014 than in 2013). To get an accurate picture of the security of cyberspace, cybercrime statistics need to be expressed as a proportion of the growing size of the Internet (similar to the routine practice of expressing crime as a proportion of a population, i.e., 15 murders per 1,000 people per year). To substantiate this argument, data was collected on the size of the Internet, with a focus on users, points of interaction and volume of online activity. Data was then collected on the vectors of cyber attack, the occurrence of cyber attacks and the cost of cybercrime. Normalizing these crime statistics around various measures of the growing size of cyberspace, a clear picture emerges: the absolute numbers always paint a worse scenario of the security of cyberspace than the normalized numbers. In particular, the absolute numbers tend to lead to one of three misrepresentations: first, the absolute numbers say things are getting worse, while the normalized numbers show that the situation is improving; second, both numbers show that things are improving, but the normalized numbers show that things are getting better at a faster rate; and third, both numbers say that things are getting worse, but the normalized numbers indicate that the situation is deteriorating more slowly than the absolute numbers. Overall, global cyberspace is actually far safer than commonly thought.

Keywords: cybercrime, cybersecurity, cyberspace, crime, Internet governance

Suggested Citation

Jardine, Eric, Global Cyberspace Is Safer than You Think: Real Trends in Cybercrime (July 15, 2015). Global Commission on Internet Governance Paper Series, No. 16. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2634590 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2634590

Eric Jardine (Contact Author)

Virginia Tech ( email )

57 Erb Street West
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 6C2
Canada

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