Cyber crime is on the rise – recently released figures from both the police and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed the extent of the problem faced not just by the authorities, but anyone with an online presence.
The changing face of cyber crime
The ONS figures outline how the 12 months to September 2015 saw an estimated 3.6 million cases of fraud and 2 million computer misuse offences in a year, while figures from the police showed an 8% rise in offences overall.
Computer misuse offences include unauthorised access to personal information, including hacking, and computer virus, malware or other incidents such as “DDoS” attacks aimed at online services.
And there are, broadly speaking, four main types of online fraud:
- Bank and credit account – criminals accessing bank accounts, credit cards or fraudulently using card details
- Advance fee – where victims are tricked into handing over cash after a communication, think those lottery-type scams
- Non-investment – victime are conned into buying a product or service, often online or via a bogus phone call or email.
- Other frauds including investment or fake charity scams
John Flatley, from the ONS, said: “In the past, burglary and theft of vehicles were the high-volume crimes driving trends but their numbers have fallen substantially since then.
“When the crime survey started [35 years ago], fraud was not considered a significant threat and the internet had yet to be invented.
“Today’s figures demonstrate how crime has changed, with fraud now the most commonly experienced offence.”
Sir Tom Winsor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales, told BBC Radio 4 that many frauds went undetected and a great deal never got reported to the police.
“The amount of fraud that is taking place now is probably in epidemic proportions,” he added. “The police are having to work very, very hard to keep up with even the ones they know about.
“The capability at police forces is quite skeletal and that needs to change and change a great deal.”
The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for crime and incident recording, Chief Constable Jeff Farrar, added: “The ability to commit crime online demonstrates the need for policing to adapt and transform to tackle these cyber challenges,” he said.
It’s clear that law enforcement services have a battle on their hands, it’s up to each and every one of us to remain vigilant – if something seems to good to be true, it probably is.