Cybercrime Now Surpasses Traditional Crime In UK

The US could be on an even worse trajectory, according to one security expert.

Rutrell Yasin, Freelance Writer

July 8, 2016

3 Min Read

Cybercrime is currently outpacing traditional crime in the United Kingdom in terms of impact spurred on by the rapid pace of technology and criminal cyber-capability, according to the UK’s National Crime Agency. 

The trend suggests the need for a more collective response from government, law enforcement, and industry to reduce vulnerabilities and prevent crime, the NCA report says.

“The NCA estimates that the cost of cybercrime to the UK economy is billions of pounds per annum – and growing,” according to the report, Cyber Crime Assessment 2016. Although estimates of the cost of cybercrime vary considerably, NCA’s view is consistent with that of other industry analysis.

“In any calculation we must consider that there are millions of individual victims, many thousands of corporate victims and correspondingly substantial losses,” according to the report, which was jointly produced by the NCA and the Strategic Cyber Industry Group (SCIG).

The UK’s Office of National Statistics included cybercrime for the first time in its 2015 annual Crime Survey of England and Wales. The survey estimated that there are 2.46 million cyber incidents and 2.11 million victims of cybercrime in the UK last year,

"Computer misuse and computer enabled crime accounted for 53% of all crime in the UK in 2015, making it larger than all other kinds of crime," wrote Trend Micro in a blog post this week.

The assessment shows that cybercrime activity is growing fast and evolving, with the threats from Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and ransomware attacks increasing significantly in 2015.

The threats from DDoS and ransomware attacks have increased, driven by ready access to easy to-use tools and by wider criminal understanding of its potential for profit through extortion. Ransomware attacks have also increased in frequency and complexity, and now include threats to publish victim data online, as well as the permanent encryption of valuable data, the assessment states.

The most advanced and serious cybercrime threat to the UK is the direct or indirect result of a few hundred international cybercriminals who target UK businesses to commit highly profitable, malware-facilitated fraud, the NCA says.

Under-reporting continues to obscure the full impact of cybercrime in the UK. This shortfall in reporting hampers the ability of law enforcement to understand the operating methods of cyber criminals and most effectively respond to the threat. As a result, the NCA is urging businesses to view cybercrime not only as a technical issue but as a board-level responsibility, and to make use of the reporting paths available to them, sharing intelligence with law enforcement and each other.

Worse For US

One security expert notes that the cybercrime situation here in the US is even more dire.

 “I think it is more dramatic in the US and I do think cybercrime is a larger industry than narcotics trafficking because of intellectual property theft and secondary infection,” says Tom Kellermann, co-founder and CEO of Strategic Cyber Ventures, which invests in next-generation security technology.

In the past, cybercriminals had to be able to build “a gun and the bullets,” metaphorically speaking, Kellermann says. Now with a proliferation of online forums and arms bazaars, anybody can download and utilize tools to launch attacks from anywhere in the world. Additionally, the US law enforcement prosecution rate for cybercrime is less than 2%, Kellermann notes.

To realistically combat cybercrime, law enforcement must destabilize the web forums that provide the hacking tools and anonymous payment systems that facilitate the service model and economy of scale of the Dark Web, Kellermann says. The money-laundering systems of the adversary have to be disrupted to foment distrust among thieves. Currently, there are no international norms of cybercrime so non-state actors such as Russian cybercriminals are protected by their government.

Technologically, most security tools have been reversed-engineered and bypassed by cybercriminal crews. So the emphasis should be on intrusion suppression, where security professionals decrease the dwell time the adversaries have to freely roam their organizations networks, he says.


About the Author(s)

Rutrell Yasin

Freelance Writer

Rutrell Yasin has more than 30 years of experience writing about the application of information technology in business and government. He has witnessed all of the major transformations in computing over the last three decades, covering the rise, death, and resurrection of the mainframe; the growing popularity of midrange and Unix-based computers; the advent of the personal computer; client/server computing; the merger of network and systems management; and the growing importance of information security. His stories have appeared in leading trade publications, including MIS Week, The Report on IBM, CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek, Federal Computer Week, and Government Computer News. His focus in recent years has been on documenting the rise and adoption of cloud computing and big-data analytics. He has a keen interest in writing stories that show how technology can help spur innovation, make city streets and buildings safer, or even save lives.

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