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One of the hottest topics in the most recent presidential election, cyber security is of great concern to both the government and private citizens for the safety of confidential or classified information. Between the hacks of the DNC’s emails to the frenzy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s email server, the concern surrounding the security and proper protection of intelligence has permeated the public discourse. Phishers have tapped into the email accounts of private citizens, cyber terrorists have broken into the pentagon, and so-called “hack-tivists” target “bad” people and expose damaging or embarrassing information about them to the public. These recent and rapid developments have made everyone, from self-employed contractors to multi-million dollar business, re-evaluate how safe their information is.

A study performed at the Pew Research Center in 2014 tracked the instances of cyber security breaches and estimated that hacking activity will proliferate exponentially as we near 2025. Last February, Gallup found that cyberterrorism ranks in the minds of Americans as one of the top three threats to the US, along with international terrorism and the stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Both the true and perceived threat of cyber crimes make the market ripe for those trying to sell defense systems and mechanisms against potential intrusions.

In 2015, Merrill Lynch estimated that the industry of cyber security would be worth $170 billion by the year 2020. While demand continues to soar, the barrier to entry for professionals in the cyber security market is generally low, requiring only computers and certifications. Good protection from hackers and malevolent software comes at a price, though, and in cyber security, you often get what you pay for. Companies are willing to pay hefty prices for air-tight security.

How much, then, does it cost for a company to ensure its data and correspondences are secure? In 2014, Bloomberg asked, “Eric Montague, president of Executech, an IT firm in South Jordan, Utah, for an estimate. While the answer will vary, depending on the type of business—not to mention the relative optimism of its owner—Montague’s response offers a useful baseline: Some $57,600 a year for a 50-employee company.”

On a personal level, costs can be much more reasonable for subscriptions to such services as lifelock or other platforms that monitor the use of social security numbers or specific credit card numbers. There are some very free ways to help keep yourself safe online, including the frequent changing of passwords and the perspicacity to avoid phishing scams, but professional levels of defense can range from reasonable monthly payment around $100 to more hefty numbers in the thousands.  

While the price tag cost of cyber security may be steep, the cost of a data leak or a breach of privacy may be even more costly. A 2016 report released by IBM estimated that, “the average total cost of a data breach for the 383 companies participating in this research increased from $3.79 to $4 million.” On a smaller scale even, insecure data on a personal level can lead to cases of identity theft. A report from the Department of Justice cited that identity theft costed 17.6 million people an average of loosely $1300 in cash on top of legal fees, emotional damage, and now-poor credit scores that impact future financial prospects.
Cybersecurity is one of the most pressing issues in the modern era, and taking the appropriate precautions may be costly at the outset but save between thousands and millions of dollars, in addition to possible embarrassment, in the long run.