Espionage-focused cyber attacks on businesses have cost over 508,000 US citizens their jobs, according to McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The security firm and non-profit organisation revealed the news in their joint Estimating the Cost of Cybercrime and Cyber Espionage paper, confirming that the impact of a successful cyber attack extends beyond purely financial damage. CSIS director and senior fellow of the Technology and Public Policy Program, James Lewis said the job losses could have disastrous consequences for nations' wider economies as well as the individuals concerned.
"Using figures from the Commerce Department on the ratio of exports to US jobs, we arrived at a high-end estimate of 508,000 US jobs potentially lost from cyber espionage. As with other estimates in the report, however, the raw numbers might tell just part of the story. If a good portion of these jobs were high-end manufacturing jobs that moved overseas because of intellectual property losses, the effects could be more wide ranging," he said.
McAfee executive vice president Michael Fey said the job losses are likely due to a lack of understanding by companies about what to do after suffering a data breach. "As policymakers, business leaders and others struggle to get their arms around why cyber security matters, they need solid information on which to base their actions," he said.
Within the UK the government has already launched several initiatives designed to help businesses that have suffered a breach. These include the launch of a new cyber security awareness campaign by the Home Office and the formation of the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP). CISP is an initiative launched in March designed to facilitate information-sharing about cyber threats between the public and private sector.
The report found that as well as job losses, successful cyber raids are costing the US economy between £100bn-$500bn every year. McAfee said the cost largely stems from the loss of financial assets or intellectual property, damage to brand and reputation, consumer losses from fraud, service disruptions following the attack and the basic cost of cleaning up the mess left following a breach.
The news follows widespread warnings from the security industry claiming state and criminal hackers are developing new ways to steal businesses data. Most recently security firm Context reported detecting a marked spike in the number of watering hole attacks targeting industry.