Fear and Loathing in Davos


Few things can evoke more uncertainty and doubt than fear (here)…

The threat of cybercrime is rising sharply, experts have warned at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Online theft costs $1 trillion a year, the number of attacks is rising sharply and too many people do not know how to protect themselves, they said.

On-line theft costs $1 trillion US dollars a year?  We have certainly come a long way since the Dark Avenger first crafted his polymorphic virus in the late 80’s but a $1 trillion a year? Seriously? Where the hell did the figure come from? To give you some perspective of size the total US GDP is about 14 trillion and that includes EVERYTHING.

But it gets worse…

“2008 was the year when cyber warfare began.. it showed that you can bring down a country within minutes,” one panelist said.

Cyber warfare began in 2008 – between which countries? It showed you can bring down a country within minutes? Seriously, bring down a country, really, are you kidding? Is this some kind of sick world economic forum humor or just sheer ignorance?

So people are unable to browse to youtube or update facebook, or download Goth porn, or make their way over to my blog and up my readership – these things are all terrible, no question, but bring down a country? I can hear the threats now “Either your country surrenders or we will DoS you back to 1995”, just doesn’t have the same kick as “bomb you back to the stone age” does it.

There is no question that we have a problem, the increased reliance on technology, the ubiquitous nature of broadband connectivity and more digital commerce all create an environment that will breed crime. I believe that awareness is important, people should understand the dynamics and risks inherent in this new digital environment, but FUD doesn’t work, it drives up hysteria and then it crashes into ambivalence, FUD is the drug of the security industry and apparently many are addicted.

3 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing in Davos

  1. Hi, Amrit –

    It’s Patrick Florer again –

    Thanks for this post – it’s a real reality-check.

    There’s a new Ponemon report out that asserts that the cost per breached record is now $202, with 70% or so of that amount calculated as lost business/lost customers.

    I have nothing against Dr. Ponemon, but I wish that someone with standing, like you, perhaps, would challenge these numbers, because they could not possiblly be true.

    Take TJX, for example:

    We know from SEC filings and stock market data that sales did not decline and that the stock actual rose during the year after the breach. With regard to costs, the highest number I have found for so far is $214 million, which is more than pocket change, but, depending upon how many breached records you include (50 or 100 million), it works out to about $2 – $4 per record. For $200 per record to be true for TJX, it would have to cost them $10 – 20 billion! Even if TJX spends $1 billion, it will still work out to less than $20 per record.

    That’s an order of magnitude of difference!

    I don’t know if you have seen the Maine Breach report, which details out the costs incurred by financial institutions in Maine of the TJX, Hannaford, and other incidents – the per record costs work out to less than $10, no matter how you crunch the numbers.

    Granted, there are other costs than what is reported in the Maine report, but it’s hard to believe that they would add up to another $192 per record.

    It sort of reminds me – you may not be old enough to remember – of the Defense Dept daily reports of Viet Cong killed in the Vietnam war. The numbers were so impossibly high that the entire population of North Vietnam should have been dead, which was obviously not the case.

    Sorry to rant – it’s kind of a hot button for me.

    Kind regards,


    • Hey Patrick,

      I saw the report after I posted this entry. The level of misinformation is becoming ridiculous and reaching a fevered pitch, what is worse is the amount of “news” reports I have seen quoting both the Ponemon report and the discussion at Davos.

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