In this hyper-fast age of information, sometimes facts may not just be overlooked but may simply be misstated. This happens when during research, small-scale facts are generalized over large populations. Apparently, that is precisely what both McAfee and Norton did when they quoted figures of cybercrime losses.
To be exact, the well-known anti-virus giant, McAfee claimed that some $1 trillion losses have been incurred due to cybercrime. Symantech’s Norton division also made a rather tall claim that $388 million have been gone in IP losses. Both these figures are huge and yet, they seem inaccurate given the way the research was done to produce them.
ProPublica probed deep into these figures quoted by the two anti-virus giants and revealed that, “The report was not actually researched by Norton employees; it was outsourced to a market research firm, StrategyOne, which is owned by the public relations giant Edelman.”
The problem with such outsourced projects is that a lot of questions can be raised as to the credibility of the partner to which the project is being outsourced. Microsoft researchers also stated that these cybercrime figures are a result of extreme generalization of limited facts and hence, can barely be reliable.
For instance, if a single individual claims he incurred losses of $50,000, if the survey includes 1000 persons, this is automatically translated to $10 billion in losses over the entire population, regardless of whether or not this actually happened. To further reassert their argument, Microsoft researchers said, “Are we really producing cyber-crime estimates where 75% of the estimate comes from the unverified self-reported answers of one or two people? Unfortunately, it appears so. Can any faith whatever be placed in the surveys we have? No, it appears not.”
Source: Sex, Lies and Cybercrime