How Computer Viruses Can Impact Our Economy

The economy is impacted by computer viruses on both micro and macro scales. At the individual level, viruses take costs to fix the damages and remove the intrusive software, sometimes compromising sensitive files or identification information in the process. Intermediately, cities can fall victim to large-scale viruses and cyber-attacks, sometimes affecting infrastructure- such as traffic or police departments. On a global scale, cyber-attacks such as the recent WannaCry ransomware that breached computers in over 100 countries, can cause massive economic disruption and change the performance of businesses in the markets as a result.

Individually, viruses can cause varying amounts of personal damage and can be costly to remove, especially in heavily infected machines. A user’s identity can be compromised or stolen, requiring further legal or administrative action to mitigate. Often, affected machines have to be fully erased and reformatted, possibly costing an individual valuable personal files and information. The consequences of one successful cyber-attack or malware infection in just one computer can cost hundreds of dollars to fix.

Locally, malware may come in the form of organized attacks on infrastructure such as the power grid, traffic lights, and police and fire departments. Infiltration of malicious code can illegally copy contents of an infected drive to a remote user, transferring potentially sensitive and confidential information that can be sold on the dark web. Cyber-attacks of this nature can harm communities by affecting the services utilized by those communities, severely disrupting them and sometimes causing widespread panic. For example, an incident in Dallas recently made the news as a cyber-attack activated dozens of the city’s emergency sirens around midnight. Fortunately, in this situation there was little physical damage caused, but breaches of precisely this nature have the ability to impact thousands of lives over a brief period of time. Fixing the damages that can be caused in these types of attacks can cost millions, depending on the extent of the breach.

Globally, countries are at constant risk of foreign hacking and efforts to cause cyber chaos. There are many factions throughout various countries that would prefer to see establishments topple, and thus create political, social, and economic unrest by undermining governments and corporations through cyber-aggression. In situations such as with the recent WannaCry, the malware was initiated by an unknown cabal dubbed Shadow Brokers, whose members have yet to answer for the attacks. Research and development, espionage, as well as increasing governmental encryption/security are steps nations can take to better secure their digital holdings, however significant funding is necessary for any of these developments to take hold on a national level. Successful cyber-attacks can cause markets to fluctuate or plummet in the case of mass panic, businesses and industries can suffer, and thus the economy is impacted.