Cybercrime is on the rise with a UK victim hit every 10 seconds, figures suggested today.
A report claims that more than 3 million online offences were committed last year as perpetrators increasingly hide behind the anonymity of the internet.
In nearly two-thirds of cases the intended target was an individual as opposed to a firm, with abusive emails and online identity theft among the crimes being identified.
A study commissioned by online identity firm Garlik found that 60% of the estimated 3,237,500 cybercrimes committed in 2006 were “offences against the person”.
These included threatening emails, blackmail perpetrated over the internet and online fraud.
More than 200,000 cases of financial fraud were recorded in 2006, with criminals impersonating the victim to obtain money, credit or a better job, the report said.
Cases of online harassment during 2006 numbered almost two million, the report claims.
The study, compiled by online criminology firm 1871 Ltd, reports that the relative anonymity and “safe” distance that the internet allows is driving a wave of cybercrime.
But many offences are going unreported. It is claimed that 90% of online harassment is carried out without a formal complaint being made.
Unwanted sexual approaches over the internet accounted for 850,000 of last year’s cybercrime, according to the report.
In the same period 238 offences of meeting a child following sexual grooming through an online chatroom were recorded.
The report is based on data from official sources and quantitative and qualitative research using a sample of 200 cyber criminals.
Stefan Fafinski, author of the report, said: ‘Although measuring cybercrime is difficult, it is clear that in many instances it is outstripping ‘traditional’ crime.
‘This is a result of unparalleled opportunities that the internet gives both for making familiar crimes easier and enabling ‘pure’ cybercrimes that could not exist without the internet.’
He added: ‘If it remains unchecked it will continue to increase.’
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