The Growing Threat of Cybercrime

Friday, 27 October 2017 | Janes Solicitors

A new court to be built in London’s Square Mile will have a primary focus on fraud, economic crime and cybercrime, reflecting the growing threat that cybercrime represents for the UK and the rest of the world.

Definition of Cybercrime

Cybercrime encompasses a wide variety of offences, but a basic definition would be crimes that involve the internet or any form of online activity. Some of the more common types of offences that are classed as cybercrime include online fraud, personal data theft, child pornography and cyberstalking.
A recent release from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) gives an interesting insight into the extent of cybercrime in England and Wales.
The figures, which cover the year ending June 2017, include crimes recorded by police and also crime recorded under the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). With regard to fraud and cybercrime related offences, the ONS highlights that the CSEW data gives a more reliable indication of the extent of these crimes, as crimes of this nature are not always reported to the police.

Cybercrime Figures

The latest estimates from the CSEW suggest that there were 3.3 million incidents of fraud in the year ending June 2017, and over half of these (57%; 1.9 million incidents) were cyber-related.
Looking at the figures in more detail, they show that “Bank and credit account fraud” was the most common type of fraud experienced (2.5 million incidents or 75% of total fraud), followed by “consumer and retail fraud”, which includes fraud related to online shopping or fraudulent computer service calls (0.7 million incidents or 22% of total fraud).
In addition, adults experienced an estimated 1.6 million computer misuse incidents; around two-thirds (67% or 1.1 million incidents) of these were computer virus-related and around one-third (33% or 0.5 million incidents) were related to unauthorised access to personal information, including hacking.
Police recorded crime data also revealed a sharp rise in computer misuse crime, with total numbers increasing by 70%, from 12,364 in year ending June 2016 to 21,062 the following year.
According to the ONS, this is largely down to a rise in computer viruses over the last year and more specifically, a rise in levels of malware (mainly ransomware and Trojans). These crimes increased by 180% in the year ending June 2017, rising from 2,956 in the previous twelve months to 8,290. Other crimes included in the computer misuse total are denial of service attacks and hacking.

Cybercrime across Europe

Of course, cybercrime isn’t a problem unique to the UK, but is an area of concern across the world.
Figures from the EU suggest that 2016 saw more than 4,000 ransomware attacks per day and 80% of European companies experienced at least one cybersecurity incident. The economic impact of cyber-crime has risen five-fold over the past four years alone.
In recognition of the growing threat, Europol set up the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) in 2013 to strengthen the law enforcement response to cybercrime in the EU. The European Commission has also announced its intention to establish an EU Cybersecurity Agency to assist Member States in dealing with cyber-attacks,
Europol recently published its 2017 Internet Organised Crime Threat Assessment, which identifies important developments in several areas of cybercrime, including:
  • Ransomware, which has apparently eclipsed most other cyber-threats with global campaigns indiscriminately affecting victims across multiple industries in both the public and private sectors.
  • Data breaches, which continue to result in the disclosure of vast amounts of data, with over 2 billion records related to EU citizens reportedly leaked over a 12 month period.
  • The Darknet remains a key enabler for a variety of crime areas, including drugs, firearms, human trafficking and child sexual abuse.
  • Payment fraud affects almost all industries, having the greatest impact on the retail, airline and accommodation sectors.
  • Direct attacks on bank networks to manipulate card balances, take control of ATMs or directly transfer funds represent one of the serious emerging threats in this area.

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If you have been charged with cybercrime offences, or other criminal law offences, then contact our specialist criminal defence lawyers today.

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