Thursday, January 31, 2013

No, cybercrime isn’t bigger than the drug trade – not even by inflated industry estimates

One of my decisions for 2013 was to moderate how I express myself on Twitter. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy other people slinging it around…

Twitter was host to a row between @Asher_Wolf and News’ Claire Porter, @ClaireRPorter about this article:

Ms Wolf complained that the story was a little too fan-like (euphemism). It’s hard to disagree when the third par says “Amit Yoran is kind of a big deal.”

But it’s this line that I’m going to take issue with:

“Cyber security threats are in fact so common that more money is being made from cyber crime than from drug trafficking, Yoran said.”

Ahem. Here’s a UN source about drug trafficking (

“In 2009, the value of illicit trade around the globe was estimated at US$1.3 trillion and is increasing.”

And here’s a story ( about the value of cybercrime:

“Norton reports that cybercrime is costing the global economy $338 billion a year, overtaking a still a lucrative trade in the underground drugs market.”

Norton is wrong, and ZDNet was unspeakably lazy to report it – since it took me just one Google search to find the UN data (search terms: global drug trade billions – it’s currently the number two result).

It’s also lazy for anyone to cite ZDNet’s report to support their own – not because of any systemic problem specific to ZDNet, simply because it’s not a primary source. Just because a journalist printed it doesn’t make it true.

The long and the short of it is this: the drug trade is worth around three times the cybercrime trade. But the computer industry has a long, long history of making itself bigger. A mature industry now, it still behaves like Chester the dog from Loony Tunes, trying to ingratiate itself with Spike, trying to prove it’s important, stealing gravy to add to its own steak.

Cybercrime is important. But it’s not bigger than the drug trade. It’s self-aggrandising for the industry to claim it; it’s lazy for journalists to report it.

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