Friday, January 10, 2014

Why there is so much cyber crime: #1 It's our spending priorities

With the number of potential victims of the Target data breach now topping 100 million, a lot of people who have never really given much thought to cyber crimes are asking: Why? How is it that criminals can commit computer crime on this scale with apparent impunity? After all, we pay taxes to be protected from the kind of scum that perpetrate crimes like this.

There are a number of answers to the question "why is there so much cyber crime?" But for me, the first answer on the list, the one that has been ignored by most of the talking heads who've been hashing over the scant details of the Target breach on TV, looks like this:
Despite all the hot air from politicians over the last 15 years, repeatedly pledging to do something about computer crime, the U.S. has failed to make fighting cyber crime a priority. I think these relative spending numbers make that clear. I would love to hear anyone argue that we are spending enough money to track down and prosecute cyber criminals right now.

An academic study published in 2012 put the total U.S. law enforcement spend on the fight against cyber crime at $200 million per year. I decided to be generous in my chart and rounded it up to $250 million.

The figure of $15 billion is often cited as the annual cost of the war on drugs, so apparently that is 60X more important than cyber crime. We know from the Snowden revelations that spy agencies spend over $52 billion per year, so apparently we think that what they do is 200X more important than fighting cyber crime.

How about we shave $0.5 billion off the intelligence agency budgets and spend it on bringing cyber criminals to justice? That's a 3X increase over what we spend right now. That might well be enough to put a significant number of perpetrators behind bars, including the ones we could afford to bring to the U.S. from other countries, thereby tipping the risk/reward equation against the bad guys and in the favor of honest citizens.

I'm writing to my representatives in Washington to tell them what I think our priorities should be. I'm sending them this chart. If you agree, I invite you to send it to the folks who are supposed to be representing you.

1 comment:

VanRiperandNies said...

Nice point, Stephen. More budget should be spent on fighting online criminal activities.