Sex, Lies and Cyber-crime Surveys

We often hear extravagantly large numbers tossed around for cyber-crime losses. Mostly, we find in a new paper, these numbers are completely unreliable. They’re based on self-reported numbers, where a single lie or  exaggeration, from a single respondent is all it takes to generate a wildly inaccurate estimate. Errors don’t cancel, and errors to the high side are unbounded.

“You should never trust user input” says one standard text on writing secure code [19]. It is ironic then that our cyber-crime survey estimates rely almost exclusively on unveri ed user input. A practice that is regarded as unacceptable in writing code is ubiquitous in forming the estimates that drive policy.

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About cormac

Very, very occasional thoughts on security from Cormac Herley
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