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Resources | Even the security experts believe myths & legends

Experts believe all types of digital risks caused $456 billion to $557 billion in damages in 2004
Legend: some experts believe "all types of digital risk" caused precisely $456,134,500,000 to $557,497,700,000 in total global damage in 2004. (This is not a typo.) Reality: a company named "mi2g" declared this guesstimate as a publicity stunt. Reason experts are duped: no statistically accepted metrics exist to gauge virus & hacking costs -- and no statistically valid data exists to gauge worldwide virus proliferation. Therefore, any cost estimate is as good as any other cost estimate. Fallout: limited mostly to gullible reporters who crave dollar figures. Computer security firms prefer to cite plausible-sounding guesstimates. However, some experts can't resist spreading the legend in their lectures.
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Experts believe viruses & worms & trojans caused $169 billion to $204 billion in damages in 2004
Legend: some experts believe viruses & worms & trojans caused $169 billion to $204 billion in global damages in 2004. Reality: a company named "mi2g" declared this guesstimate as a publicity stunt. Reason experts are duped: no statistically accepted metrics exist to gauge virus & hacking costs -- and no statistically valid data exists to gauge worldwide virus proliferation. Therefore, any cost estimate is as good as any other cost estimate. Fallout: limited mostly to gullible reporters who crave dollar figures. Computer security firms prefer to cite plausible-sounding guesstimates. However, some experts can't resist spreading the legend in their lectures.
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Experts believe viruses & worms & hacking caused $185 billion to $226 billion in damages in 2003
Legend: some experts believe viruses & worms & hacking caused $185 billion to $226 billion in global damages in 2003. Reality: a company named "mi2g" declared this guesstimate as a publicity stunt. Reason experts are duped: no statistically accepted metrics exist to gauge virus & hacking costs -- and no statistically valid data exists to gauge worldwide virus proliferation. Therefore, any cost estimate is as good as any other cost estimate. Fallout: limited mostly to gullible reporters who crave dollar figures. Computer security firms prefer to cite plausible-sounding guesstimates. However, some experts can't resist spreading the legend in their lectures.
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Experts believe a 12yr-old hacker once controlled the floodgates of a dam
Legend: experts around the world believe a 12yr-old hacker took control of the floodgates at the Roosevelt Dam in 1998, which threatened a large populated area in Arizona. Reality: in 1994, a 27yr-old hacker dialed into a server that monitored the water levels of canals in the Phoenix area. Investigators concluded it posed no threat to safety. Reason experts are duped: the story has been retold over the years by people who simply don't bother to check facts. In 2002, for example, the White House cyberspace security advisor declared "we've seen 14- and 15yr-olds hack their way into things like the control system for a dam in Arizona." In some cases, these experts will insist they can't provide specifics due to reasons of confidentiality. Fallout: experts are encouraged to retell anecdotes without checking the facts because few reporters will question a tall tale.
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Experts believe the Melissa virus crashed 300 of the Fortune 500 firms in 1999
Listen to this advice (MP3) Legend: experts around the world believe the Melissa virus crashed 300 of the Fortune 500 firms in March 1999. Reality: only 10-25 Fortune firms crashed when Melissa swamped the world. Another 250+ lemmings disconnected from the Internet as a precaution. Reason experts are duped: clueless reporters constantly repeat the legend in virus stories. Fallout: Melissa hysteria started a trend of "precautionary disconnects" which continued throughout 1999, culminating in a worldwide lemming shutdown to avoid non-existent Y2K viruses.
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Experts believe the ILoveYou virus caused $2.7 to $8.7 billion in damages in 2000
Listen to this advice (MP3) Legend: experts around the world believe the ILoveYou virus in May 2000 caused $2.7 billion, $4.7 billion, $6.7 billion, or $8.7 billion in damages. Reality: Computer Economics, Inc. concocted the first three estimates as a publicity stunt during the peak of ILoveYou hysteria. They concocted the fourth estimate after the hysteria died down. Reason experts are duped: no statistically accepted metrics exist to gauge virus costs -- and no statistically valid data exists to gauge worldwide virus proliferation. Therefore, any cost estimate is as good as any other cost estimate. Fallout: the antivirus industry can cite yet another plausible-sounding estimate.
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Experts believe viruses caused $12.1 billion in damages in 1999 and $17.1 billion in 2000
Listen to this advice (MP3) Legend: experts around the world believe viruses caused a total of $12.1 billion in damages worldwide in 1999, and caused a total of $17.1 billion in damages in 2000. Reality: Computer Economics, Inc. declared these estimates in press releases as a publicity stunt. Reason experts are duped: no statistically accepted metrics exist to gauge virus costs -- and no statistically valid data exists to gauge worldwide virus proliferation. Therefore, any cost estimate is as good as any other cost estimate. Fallout: the antivirus industry can cite yet another plausible-sounding estimate.
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Experts believe viruses & hacking caused $1.6 trillion in damages in a 15-month period
Listen to this advice (MP3) Legend: some computer security experts believe hacking & virus attacks cost an astronomical $1.6 trillion, worldwide, during a recent 15-month period. Reality: InformationWeek and Reality Research & Consulting published a credulous "global survey," possibly as a publicity stunt. Reason experts are duped: no statistically accepted metrics exist to gauge hacking & virus costs -- and no statistically valid data exists to gauge worldwide hacking & virus proliferation. Therefore, any cost estimate is as good as any other cost estimate. Fallout: limited mostly to gullible reporters. Computer security firms prefer to cite plausible-sounding estimates. However, some computer security experts can't resist spreading the legend in their lectures.
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Experts believe the Chernobyl virus physically destroyed up to a million PCs in 1999
Listen to this advice (MP3) Legend: experts around the world believe the Chernobyl virus physically destroyed up to a million PCs in Asia on 26 April 1999. Reality: the media quoted Asian computer consultants and high-ranking ministry officials who speculated wildly about the number of damaged PCs. Reason experts are duped: few non-Asian reporters & virus experts have reliable Asian sources, so everybody took the initial media reports at face value. Also, no one bothered to conduct a reliable follow-up estimate after the hysteria subsided. Fallout: the media will accept at face value any high-ranking public official who makes up estimates and flavors them with tear-jerking anecdotes.
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Experts believe the Morris Internet worm caused $98 million in damages in 1988
Listen to this advice (MP3) Legend: experts around the world claim the Morris Internet worm of 1988 cost $98 million to clean up. Reality: antivirus vendor John McAfee concocted giant damage estimates as a publicity stunt. Reason experts are duped: reporters couldn't resist McAfee's publicity stunts. They repeated his estimate so often (without attribution) that it entered the public consciousness before most of today's experts got into the business. Fallout: it paved the way for 'big lies' and 'plausible estimates' in the virus world. If you say something loud enough & long enough, it becomes the truth. Vmyths editor Rob Rosenberger first tackled this legend in 1989.
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