Page last updated at 00:11 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Cybercrime wave sweeping Britain

PCB and iron
Cybercriminals use sophisticated and professional techniques

Cybercrime in the UK rose by more than 9% in 2007, according to a new report.

Online identity firm Garlik's cybercrime report claims that more than 3.5 million online crimes were committed in the UK last year.

The majority of crimes related to fraud and abusive or threatening e-mails. There was an 8% drop in online identity theft and sexual offences fell 2%.

Tom Ilube, of Garlick, said he expected to see a growth in online financial fraud due to the credit crunch.

Everyone who goes online will be the subject of some kind of internet crime
Andrew Goodwill, 3rd Man

In 2007, the sharpest rise was in online financial fraud, with more than 250,000 incidents reported in 2007; a 20% rise on the previous year.

The report highlighted a growing professionalism among online criminals, with personal and credit details being traded online.

Garlik said that the information black market had doubled, with more than 19,000 illicit traders identified.

Abuse and blackmail

Online harassment also increased. More than two million people were the victim of an abusive email, false accusation or blackmail attempt.

It is thought the growing popularity of social networking sites helped drive this, providing a new widespread medium for online harassment.

United States 63.2%
United Kingdom 15.3%
Nigeria 5.7%
Canada 5.6%
Romania 1.5%
Source: The Internet Crime Complaint Center 2007 annual report

However, there was a drop in cases of online identity theft, which fell 8% to just over 80,000 reported cases.

The number of online sexual offences also fell by 2% to 830,000.

The report warned that a rise in overall cybercrime was to be expected, with people resorting to illegal activities as the economic climate worsens.

Cybercrime is one of the fastest-growing criminal activities and covers a wide range of offences, including financial scams, hacking, harassment and identity theft.

As long as the credit crunch continues, we can expect to see a real growth in online financial fraud
Tom Ilube, Garlik

But some people think the report is just the tip of the iceberg.

Andrew Goodwill, from fraud prevention specialists The 3rd Man, said cybercrime was mushrooming out of proportion.

"Cybercrime costs the country hundreds of millions every year," he said.

"Retailers alone lost more than 270m in 2007 from internet fraud. And that's just the figures reported by banks.

"These numbers are a shadow of the real figure. Pretty much everyone who goes online will be the subject of some kind of internet crime, be it phishing e-mails, virus attacks or malware," he said.

According to the FBI, the UK is home to many of the perpetrators.

In a 2007 report by its Internet Crime Complaint Center, Britain came second after the United States (and before Nigeria) as the source of online crime.

Garlik's chief executive Tom Ilube sounded a warning for the future.

"It's critical in this time of financial crisis that individuals are vigilant with their personal information, because as long as the credit crunch continues, we can expect to see a real growth in online financial fraud," he said.

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