Cyber criminals could be costing New Zealanders $4.7 billion per year, with businesses taking most of the hit, according to AVG.
The company's 'security evangelist' Lloyd Borrett cited the findings of a UK report by the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance, and found that extrapolating the UK statistics by New Zealand's GDP and population resulted in a loss of $4.7 billion.
The report found that in the UK, £27 billion are lost to cyber criminals every year, with businesses bearing £22 billion of the cost.
In Australia the extrapolated figure was AUD$22 billion per year.
“The whole pubs, clubs, cafe industry in Australia is only $11 billion," Borrett said.
Merchants took most of the hit because of credit card fraud. The customer would usually call the credit card company and cancel any illegitimate transactions, so it was businesses that lost money.
"Now, a merchant, of course you've got to educate them to be aware and sophisticated and you say, 'well, don't deal with someone in Ghana'," Borrett said.
"I've set up online shops for a few small businesses, and you tell them, 'well, we just won't deal with anyone from those countries'."
The cyber crime industry was "bigger than the drug industry", Borrett said, and had ties to the mafia and organised crime.
NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker said New Zealand was becoming more at risk of cyber crime as it was attempting to become a "digital economy" through ultra-fast broadband.
"For us, the interesting question is 'how ready is New Zealand to become a digital society?'" Cocker said.
"Are small businesses aware of what they're getting themselves into when they move to e-commerce? Are consumers really aware of the risks that they face? The answer from the research is no, not really."
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