Hacking incidents against banks and other companies are making major headlines – but is it the hacking that has shot up, or just the media's attention to it?

The Freakonomics blog explored this question and got mixed answers from experts. Most said that the media attention is not an exaggeration of the problem – there is clearly more hacking going on.

Bruce Schneier, who runs the blog "Schneier on Security," disagreed. He told Freakonomics that media attention has become inflated because many incidents have other factors that make them newsworthy. For example, a recent spike in attention around the group Anonymous stems from its connection to the WikiLeaks controversy. Anonymous said its attacks against payment companies were in response its targets' moves to block donations to WikiLeaks for publishing leaked government documents.

Likewise, the attack against EMC Corp.'s RSA Security was "made more newsworthy because of the bungling of the disclosure by the company," Schneier wrote.

All that has changed is the media's attention, he wrote. "It's not that things are getting worse; it's that things were always this bad."

Julie Conroy McNelley, a senior analyst with Aite Group, was one of the many contributors who said that hacking incidents are spreading.

One cause is that hackers are rising to the challenge posed by the financial services industry's moves to strengthen its own defenses, she told Freakonomics.

"The law of supply and demand dictates that as the number of credit card records that are available to the criminal underground decrease, the value of this data" rises, which drives up demand, she wrote. This "means that the criminals are redoubling their efforts."