How much economic damage would be done if a cyberattack took out the internet?


The recent closure of Colonial Pipeline’s natural gas distribution infrastructure from a ransomware attack brings up a question: What economic damage could be caused by a cyberattack that would render the internet unusable for an hour, 10 hours, or a day? 

Merchant Machine, a UK-based payments information service, took a stab at figuring out the economic damage that the loss of the internet would create, and their answer is that the world economy would lose $2.1 billion per hour — rising to $51 billion after 24 hours.

The larger the country’s economy, the larger the loss. The US economy would be on a $306.3 million an hour loss rate, or $7.3 billion after 24 hours. China would lose about $244 million per hour or $5.8 billion after 24 hours.

Similarly, the largest retailers will hurt the most. Amazon is out of pocket by $44 million per hour. Interestingly, advertising-supported Instagram would lose even more at $53 million per hour, according to Merchant Marine.

The calculation was done simply by using information from Netblocks and dividing company annual revenues by the number of hours in a year. Such broad studies do not take into account practicalities such as being able to complete a commercial transaction in the following hour or day or week when internet connectivity would be restored. Is that really lost revenue or is it just delayed?

However, the report is essentially a breakdown on the rise of dependence on digital commercial transactions — the importance of the internet is undeniable, but there are also private networks that do not rely on the internet to complete commercial transactions.

A more detailed analysis of each country’s dependence on the internet can be seen here.

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