New research has suggested that current surveys and studies have grossly overestimated the levels of cyber attacks and hacking attempts currently sweeping the globe.
According to analysts from a Microsoft sponsored research team, current surveys on cyber crime levels are full of "catastrophic errors".
This is apparently due to the current levels of over-reporting that has occurred as a result the current research's tendency to only survey a small number of subjects before making its final estimates.
The statement stems from the findings of a new paper by Dinei Florencio and Cormac Herley entitled "Sex, Lies and Cyber Crime Surveys".
The paper compared the current problems facing surveys researching the topic of cyber crime to those facing sexual partner surveys.
Self-reporting is a type of survey or questionnaire that lets its subjects read the question and select a response by themselves without external interference.
The technique has been criticised several times as it can lead to woefully inaccurate figures that defy "large-scale direct observation".
In surveys regarding individuals average number of sexual partners, self-reporting can lead to ridiculous conclusions such as the total population of men having more sexual partners than there are women in the world -- i.e. the men have had more partners than is physically possible.
This phenomenon is of course indicative of the fact that many of the individuals in the survey can and will lie, thus making the data obtained untrustworthy.
The new paper argued that current surveys regarding cyber crime are suffering the same problems, with respondents over-reporting.
This over-reporting in turn leads to elevated estimates of the levels of crime and resultant financial losses.
Researchers working on the report commented on the current estimated cyber crime levels: "They are so compromised and biased that no faith whatever can be placed in their findings."
Senior security researcher at Kaspersky Labs David Emm went on to comment that getting accurate estimates on current cyber crime levels would at best be difficult, "It's by definition a covert economy... cyber criminals don't publish annual accounts."
Emm went on to reiterate his belief that this cyber crime was in fact growing, describing it as a "lucrative business", just not at the levels currently estimated.
The Sex Lies and Cyber Crime surveys paper is set to be read at the Workshop on the Economics of Information Security later this year.