Cambridge Academic slams Government cyber crime report

27 February 2011

A Cambridge academic has criticised a new report issued by the UK Cabinet Office that claims cyber crime costs the UK economy £27 billion a year. Written by technology consulting firm, Detica, the report states that this would amount to approximately 2% of the UK’s GDP.

However, the report’s validity has been strongly questioned by Dr Tyler Moore, a researcher for the Cambridge Computer Laboratory. The report claims that 60% of the cost is due to intellectual property theft and espionage, but fails to describe in full, the process used to obtain these figures, making them impossible to verify.

Moore told The Cambridge Student, “My main complaint with the report is that they have dressed up this guessing game on losses with language implying that the analysis is methodologically sound, which it clearly isn’t”.

The figures are based on a sector-specific probability of theft, but the report does not specify these probabilities or the rationale behind them.

However, they are crucial to the final figure, and a small change in these probabilities would mean a dramatic change in the prediction.

Moore added the report was “using the imprimatur of the UK government to incorrectly imply that the figure are as reliable as other government-collected statistics”. He also pointed to “the incentive to hype up the threats because they stand to gain from investments into cyber security defence.” While he applauded the attempt to measure the scale of cyber crime, Moore called for a transparency of the entire methodology and calculations so decision makers relying on the figures are not misled.

The report itself recognises its own fallibility stating, “The proportion of IP stolen cannot at present be measured with any degree of confidence”.

Charlotte Callinan

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