The annual cost of cybercrime has hit $600 billion worldwide, fueled by the growing sophistication of hackers and proliferation of criminal marketplaces and cryptocurrencies, researchers said. A report produced by the security firm McAfee with the Center for Strategic and International Studies found theft of intellectual property represents about one-fourth of the cost of cybercrime in 2017. Russia, North Korea and Iran are the main sources of hackers targeting financial institutions, while China is the most active in cyber espionage, the report found.
The researchers said ransomware is the fastest-growing component of cybercrime, helped by the easy availability of marketplaces offering hacking services. The global research report comes days after the White House released a report showing cyberattacks cost the U.S. between $57 billion and $109 billion in 2016 while warning of a "spillover" effect for the broader economy if certain sectors are hit. Globally, criminals are using the same tools for data or identity theft, bank hacks, and another cyber mischief, with anonymity preserved by using bitcoin or other cryptocurrency.
CSIS Vice President James Lewis said meanwhile the geopolitical risks of cybercrime are a key element in these attacks.
"Our research bore out the fact that Russia is the leader in cybercrime, reflecting the skill of its hacker community and its disdain for western law enforcement," Lewis said.
"North Korea is second in line, as the nation uses cryptocurrency theft to help fund its regime, and we're now seeing an expanding number of cybercrime centers, including not only North Korea but also Brazil, India and Vietnam."