The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that more than seven million fraud and cyber crimes are being committed every year in the UK.
The ONS logged an estimated 5.1 million incidents of fraud in the 12 months to May 2015 affecting 3.8 million adults in England and Wales.
Furthermore, another 2.5 million of the cybercrime incidents fall under the Computer Misuse Act, the most common being virus infections, email hacks and social media breaches.
The survey said that more than half of fraud and cybercrime victims suffered financial loss, and that 78 percent received financial compensation and 62 percent full reimbursement.
The ONS report uses data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) Crime Statistics Year Ending June 2015, which included questions that moved beyond basic credit card and banking fraud to include computer misuse crimes, including those “committed in person, by mail, over the phone and online”.
The findings come despite an overall decline in traditional crime by eight percent, suggesting that cybercrime has overtaken physical offences for the first time.
“There were an estimated 6.5 million incidents of crime against households and resident adults. This is an eight percent decrease compared with the previous year’s survey, and the lowest estimate since the CSEW began in 1981,” the ONS said.
Yet the discrepancy in figures could simply mean that crime is moving online.
“There has been an increasing demand for more comprehensive statistics to build a better understanding of the nature of the problem, how it is changing and evolving,” the ONS admitted.
Richard Olver, EMEA vice president at security firm Tanium, said that it “comes as no surprise” that cybercrime has officially become the UK’s most common offence.
“The ONS report rightly brings to attention cybercrime figures which have been steadily increasing year on year, whilst hackers continue to use the same methods they’ve been using for decades,” he said.
Terry Greer-King, director of cyber security at Cisco, also warned that cybercrime is a “real and growing concern” for the UK.
“Backed by a multi-billion dollar industry, today’s cyber criminals are becoming more innovative than ever, finding new and sophisticated ways of targeting individuals or businesses, breaching systems and evading detection,” he said.
David Kennerley, senior manager for threat research at cyber security firm Webroot, added that the inclusion of cybercrime as a category in the ONS report is a “step forward”.
“There’s a common misconception that cybercrime is somehow victimless. This is far from the case. Recent attacks such as Dridex, which was used to steal £20m from UK bank accounts, show just how damaging they can be to all parties involved,” he said.
“Simple measures such as using different passwords for different online accounts, keeping systems and applications up to date, using ad blocker software and taking extra care when opening emails will all help reduce the risk of an attacker gaining access to your personal details.”
Despite this Louise Pordage, senior manager in KPMG’s cyber security practice, is certain that online crime remains one of the “most under-reported areas” in UK crime statistics.
“There is little clarity around the impact of cybercrime on the UK economy and, of course, the statistics released today only consider crimes against the person rather than corporate crime,” she said.
“Our world is becoming digital and so is organised crime. The incorporation of these figures into the CSEW is a vital first step towards a more robust reporting regime for cybercrime.”
It was revealed recently that a form of banking malware known as Dridex has cost UK financial institutions up to £20m in losses.
A global operation combining law enforcement and security experts is now underway in an attempt to curb the Dridex threat.