Cyber attacks cost U.S. businesses an average $8.9 million annually, study says

In Germany, Japan, and the U.K., cyber crime costs much less to clean up, but the U.S. experiences more expensive attacks such as malicious insiders and Web-based incidents

According to a survey of 56 corporate and governmental organizations conducted by the Ponemon Institute, the average amount they paid for all the costs associated with cyber attacks was $8.9 million during the past year. That's up 6 percent from the previous year's study.

And for the first time, Ponemon expanded the survey to other countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and Japan. Costs ascribed to cyber attacks in those locales was significantly lower: $5.9 million in Germany and $5.1 million in Japan, for example.

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The study, sponsored by HP Enterprise Security, offers some explanation for why the U.S. cyber crime figure is far higher. "We found that U.S. companies were much more likely to experience the most expensive types of cyber attacks, which are malicious insiders, malicious code, and Web-based incidents," the report says.

Institute founder Larry Ponemon acknowledges that with only 56 organizations participating in the survey, the sample is insufficient to reach a firm conclusion as to why the cost of cyber crime in the U.S. does appear higher than elsewhere.

In the U.K. and Australia, where cyber crime costs per year were $3.2 million and $3.3 million respectively, denial-of-service attacks were more commonplace. German companies were the least likely to experience malicious code and denial-of-service, while Japanese companies least likely to experience malicious insiders and Web-based attacks.

The study cited five "external" cost factors associated with cyber crime: business disruption, information loss or theft, revenue loss, equipment damages and "other." The "internal cost" factors were detection, investigation and escalation, containment, recovery and subsequent efforts to ward off future attacks.

U.S. companies cited information theft as accounting for 44 percent of total external costs.

Cyber crime costs among the 56 companies participating in the survey ranged from $1.4 million to $46 million. Most of the cyber crime costs were related to mitigation of attacks caused by denial-of-service, malicious insider and Web-based attacks.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: @MessmerE. Email:

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