The cost of immaturity: The business of protecting against computer-hacking is booming

The average time between an attacker breaching a network and its owner noticing the intrusion is 205 days. Like most statistics touted by the cyber-security industry, such as the supposed annual $575 billion global cost of 90m cyber-attacks, it is little more than a guesstimate. But there is no doubt that criminals and pranksters are thriving by attacking computers and networks (see article), that companies are struggling to cope and that businesses offering answers are charging fat fees.The penalties for getting cyber-security wrong are steep. Nortel, a Canadian telecoms giant, went bust in part because hackers stole so much of its intellectual property. Target, an American retailer, lost the credit-card details of 40m customers. Some of them are suing. Its share price plunged, and the CEO stepped down. TalkTalk, one of the biggest phone and internet companies in Britain, is floundering after an attack last month which leaked customer information — which was apparently stored unencrypted, on a computer accessible through a public website.

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