Bye-Bye World Economy

By Phil Reitinger

I hear talk all the time about a catastrophic cyber event.  But just as concerning is a slow bleed.  Let’s do some funny math.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that the loss from cybercrime was estimated to be $264 million in 2008.  Later reports show this number climbing steadily.  The Center for Strategic and International Studies and McAfee estimated the global loss as between $100 billion and $500 billion.  More recently, the firm Cybersecurity Ventures estimated cybercrime would cost $6 trillion by 2021.  That’s a growth rate of almost 120% each year.

With the global economy estimated to be about $90 trillion in 2020, if we project cybercrime growth outward from 2021 at only 100% growth per year, most of the world’s economic output should be consumed by cybercrime around 2025 – in the neighborhood of $100 trillion per year.

Now that is funny math at its finest.  The 2008 figure of $264 million is almost certainly too low, looking mostly at reported crime.  The 2021 figure of $6 trillion may be too high.  And of course the loss from cybercrime could never approach 100% of the world economy – cybercrime isn’t that efficient.

So I can safely treat my own prediction of global economic collapse in 2025 as FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).  But even with all its flaws, the calculation raises an interesting point.  There has been an ongoing debate whether the universe will end in a “Big Crunch” or a “Big Freeze” – will everything collapse back to the way it was before the Big Bang, or will the universe keep expanding until it goes cold?  Exciting stuff!  We can ask a similar question for cybercrime.  Will the world economy experience a Cyber Armageddon, an event that throws the economy into a crisis that beggars the Great Recession and Great Depression, or will it continue to grow predictably but rapidly until total output of the world is a fraction of what it would be if we were cyber-secure?

Sleep well.

The author, Phil Reitinger, is the President and CEO of the Global Cyber AllianceYou can follow him on Twitter @CarpeDiemCyber.