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The impact of cybercrime on businesses: A new conceptual framework and its application to Belgium

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Despite growing indications and fears about the impact of cybercrime, only few academic studies have so far been published on the topic to complement those published by consultancy firms, cybersecurity companies and private institutes. The review of all these studies shows that there is no consensus on how to define and measure cybercrime, or assess its impact.

Against this background, this article pursues two aims: 1) to develop a well-thought conceptual framework to define and operationalize cybercrime affecting businesses as well as its impact, harms, and costs; and 2) to test this conceptual framework with a survey of businesses based in Belgium, which was administered in summer 2016 and elicited 310 valid responses.

Consisting of five types, our conceptualization of cybercrime is, unlike others, technology-neutral and fully compatible with the legislation. Drawing on Greenfield and Paoli’s (2013), we understand impact as the overall harm of cybercrime, that is, the “sum” of the harms to material support, or costs, and the harms to three other interest dimensions, i.e., functional (i.e., operational) integrity, reputation and privacy. Whereas we ask respondents to provide a monetary estimate of the costs, respondents are invited to rate the severity of the harms on the basis of an ordinal scale.

This “double track” might give a fuller assessment of cybercrime impact. Whereas most affected businesses do not report major costs or harm, 15% to 20% of them rate the harms to their internal operational activities as serious or more, with cyber extortion regarded as most harmful.

This talk is part of the Computer Laboratory Security Seminar series.

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