The Complex

The cost of cyber espionage: ‘A rounding error’

How serious is intellectual property theft and cyber crime against U.S. businesses? It depends on who you ask. When Jim Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies gave someone he would only describe as one of the "gods of economics" his initial estimates about the cost of cyber espionage, this is what happened:  ...

U.S. Air Force
U.S. Air Force

How serious is intellectual property theft and cyber crime against U.S. businesses? It depends on who you ask.

When Jim Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies gave someone he would only describe as one of the "gods of economics" his initial estimates about the cost of cyber espionage, this is what happened: 

"I said, ‘I apologize, we’re at a very preliminary stage of our research, there’s an embarrassing range and we hope to narrow it over time, but I would say the minimum might be $20 billion dollars a year and the maximum might be $100 billion dollars a year,’ noting that there’s all sorts of problems, it’s a very preliminary estimate," Lewis recounted during a forum on cyber security at The George Washington University last week. "He looked at me and he said, ‘100 billion dollars!? That’s a rounding error in a $15 trillion dollar economy!’ And he’s right, it’s a rounding error."

More recent estimates have put the cost of theft as high as $338 billion per year, but Lewis’ anecdote puts the fear of cyber espionage in perspective.

Still, Lewis admitted that the blatant theft of U.S. economic and defense secrets is "very disturbing" and needs to be addressed

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