In just four decades' time, cybercrime has grown from an annoyance to one of the world's fastest-growing and most costly criminal problems. And with the onset of globalized business, it's only getting worse.
According to the results of the latest international annual study by Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), which partnered with the Ponemon Institute, an independent cybersecurity research group, the average annualized cost of cybercrime committed globally against a sample of U.S.-based organizations was $12.7 million -- an increase of nearly 100 percent compared to the first study five years ago.
That growing threat also brings with it longer resolution time. The report says it now takes companies 33 percent more time to fix the damage from a cyberattack compared to five years ago (45 days versus 32), with an average cost of over $1.6 million to financially resolve the effects of a single attack.
Cybercrimes aren't only more costly but they're becoming more common. The organizations examined in the study reported a 176 percent increase in the number of attacks now, with an average of 138 successful ones each week, compared to just 50 a week in 2010.
Information theft accounts for 40 percent of the overall external costs attributed to cybercrime. But lost productivity and disruptions to business take nearly the same financial toll.
These costs are felt across a wide variety of industries as well. Attacks on the U.S. retail sector alone, including the recent high-profile data breaches at Target (TGT), Home Depot (HD) and elsewhere, have more than doubled in the past five years.
The main problem for businesses, according to Art Gilliland, and HP senior vice president and general manager of Enterprise Security Products, is that they must continually remain vigilant against cybercrimes.
"Adversaries only need to be successful once to gain access to your data, while their targets must be successful every time to stop the barrage of attacks their organizations face each day," he said in a statement.
International law enforcement acknowledges that cybercrimes will continue to increase.
Troels Oerting, the head of Europol's cybercrime division, says his organization is tracking the leaders of around 100 criminal networks.
"We roughly know who they are," he said during a recent interview with BBC Radio. "If we can take them out of the equation then the rest will fall down."
But given the borderless nature of cybercrime, Oerting concedes the crooks often have the upper hand.
"Criminals no longer come to our countries," he noted, "they commit their crimes from a distance, and because of this I cannot use the normal tools to catch them."