Justice Department cybercrime study underway

The U.S. Department of Justice said it has begun receiving responses to surveys aimed at measuring the extent of cybercrime on businesses.

The National Computer Security Survey (NCSS), announced last month, will poll some 36,000 of the nation's 5.3 million businesses to create accurate information, said Ramona Rantala, a statistician and survey program manager. The first phase of surveys were mailed Feb. 14, with the remaining going out April 24, she said.

"It is the first national survey that will be able to produce national estimates and industry-level estimates in terms of prevalence and nature of computer security incidents and losses due to those incidents," she said today. "Currently everybody in industry - individuals and government - we're all concerned about what's going on with computer crime, but there are no national numbers, no industry-level numbers. There are numbers out there, but nobody knows where they came from."

The survey seeks information about the nature and extent of computer security incidents, including denial of service attacks and identity theft; financial losses as a result of the events; incident details and security measures in place, the Justice Department said in a news release.

Depending on the results, the government could devise ways to help secure the nation's infrastructure.

"Data from the NCSS will enable the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and industry as whole to make informed decisions and develop policies that effectively target resources in the area of cybersecurity," the DOJ said.

The department expects to publish the results by the end of the year, Rantala said.

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