Cyber-crime overtakes physical crime in the UK

New statistics being released today by the ONS are expected to confirm that cyber-crime has become the largest recorded offence in the UK

Cyber-crime overtakes physical crime in the UK
Cyber-crime overtakes physical crime in the UK

Cyber-crime is set to become the UK's most common offence with the release today of new figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Cyber-crimes were previously excluded from official statistics, but with their addition in this latest tranche of crime numbers, they are set to outpace any other kind of crime in the UK - and signal that crime hasn't really been going down over recent years - it's simply been moving online.

The Crime Survey of England and Wales, based on interviews with tens of thousands of people and released earlier this year, estimated that there had been 6.8 million offences in the previous year (ending in March 2015). But ONS stats in the past have estimated that there are several million cyber-crimes in the UK, carving out cyber-crime as making up the most significant proportion of UK crime.

The addition of these figures to official statistics will not bode well for government claims about getting tough on crime, pushing the number of offences up by what many believe will be several million. Their addition is, however, necessary according to several industry commentators speakng to SCMagazineUK.com.

Terry Greer-King, director of cyber-security for Cisco in the UK told SC that its about time cyber-crime was included as part of crime statistics: “Cyber-crime is a real and growing concern for the UK and it is therefore essential that it be included in the ONS' statistics.”

Tim Erlin, director of security and product management at Tripwire spoke to SC to doubled down on that statement, issuing a call to action to get serious on cyber-crime: “It's time for ‘cyber' to stop being treated as a second-class crime. Despite the rhetoric, real decisions about policy and funding are made with this data in mind.”

Whether it was included in the statistics or not cyber-crime has become increasingly expensive for the UK, as various law enforcement bodies have noted. The National Crime Agency released its National Strategic Assessment earlier this year noted that losses from such crime exceed £16 billion pounds annually, already making up a significant proportion of what the UK loses from organised crime.

It was just last year that the National Cyber Crime Unit's Jamie Saunders spoke to SC, saying that cyber-crime would become ‘the new normal'. He told SC that law enforcement would equip itself to meet this growing challenge: “There will be a cadre within law enforcement focused on these more sophisticated cyber-crimes.  I don't think they will outnumber people dealing with that wide range of crimes, most of which will become cyber-enabled in some way. Cyber-enabled crime will be the norm.”

Senior police officers have warned that as cyber-crime has grown in popularity as the racket of choice for criminals; formerly violent offenders have increasingly turned to cyber-crime as a low-risk way or perpetrating lucrative criminal acts.

Earlier this year, Adrian Leppard, Commissioner of the City of London Police told the Telegraph that around a quarter of organised crime groups in the UK are involved in financial crime. A report on UK crime statistics from the University of Cambridge, released at the same time showed that six out of ten cyber-criminals had a record completely unrelated to cyber-crime showing that, “those traditional offenders are changing their behaviour and moving to the internet.”

Later in tthis year, Leppard spoke to SCMagazineUK. He blamed the lack of visibility that cyber-enabled fraud enjoys compared to other real-world kinds of crime makes it extremely hard to monitor and police: “The British crime survey that comes out next year is expected to indicate that there are about three million (fraud) crimes a year in the country, of which only 250,000 get reported, and the capacity of the police service means they deal with about a quarter of that - so one of the biggest challenges we have is to make it easier for industry to report.”

This news comes just days after UK law enforcement bodies announced they are hunting the perpetrators of a series of online heists from UK bank accounts using Dridex malware that have resulted in losses of at least £20 million.