Cyber crime generates $1.5tn (£1.1tn) in revenue every year, according to a groundbreaking report released at RSA Conference on Friday.
The research, conducted by Surrey University criminologist Michael McGuire and commissioned by security firm Bromium, reveals that if cyber crime was a country, it would have the 13th highest GDP in the world.
According to McGuire’s “conservative estimates”, illicit and illegal online markets generate $860bn a year, theft of trade secrets generates $500bn, data trading generates $160bn, crimeware-as-a-service generates $1.6bn and ransomware generates $1bn.
“The findings of Dr. McGuire’s research provide shocking insight into just how widespread and profitable cybercrime has become,” said Bromium’s CEO Gregory Webb. “The platform criminality model is productising malware and making cybercrime as easy as shopping online.”
The proceeds of cyber crime, meanwhile, amount to an estimated $80bn to $200bn a year, according to previously reported findings of the report.
“People often talk about cyber crime as a business – that idea really needs to be put to rest,” McGuire told NS Tech. “What we have got here is a complex global economy. The way various actors are connected and the various flows and dynamics of this system – the ways it mirrors the legitimate economy and feeds off it is really striking.”
As government agencies crack down on the use of bitcoin as a vehicle for dirty cash, the report reveals that criminals are turning to alternative coins, such as Monero, that afford greater anonymity.
McGuire calculated that as much as $80bn a year is laundered through cryptocurrencies, while criminals are also increasingly reliant on video-game currencies and digital payment systems, as well as more traditionals means, to cash out the proceeds of their crimes.