These figures show cybercrime is a much bigger menace than anyone thought before

The first official cybercrime figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest one in 10 adults have been victims in last 12 months -- a much higher figure than previously thought.
Written by Danny Palmer, Senior Writer
Black glove keyboard hacker

One in 10 people have fallen victim to cybercrime. (Image: iStock)

Cybercrime rates are much higher than previously estimated, with new figures from the Office for National Statistics, the UK's official producer of national statistics, suggesting that one in 10 adults have been a victim of crimes such as hacking or cyber fraud -- a significant rise over previous estimates.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) represents the first official estimate of the extent of cybercrime incidents such as online scams, malware or virus attacks, theft of banking or other personal data, and other online crimes.

Previously, unofficial estimates suggested that the annual figure for cybercrime incidents was 3.8 million, but the new official statistics -- based on interviews -- put the figure much higher, at an estimated 5.8 million incidents of cybercrime.

Of these instances, 3.8 million are thought to be cases of fraud, while a further two million are cases of computer misuse -- a term which incorporates the likes of hacking and purposely sabotaging a machine.

The most common type of fraud -- accounting for two-thirds of incidents -- involved the theft of bank and credit card details, with 2.5 million people suspected to have been victims of this type of cybercrime. That's followed by "non-investment" fraud, such as fraud related to online shopping scams or fraudulent calls to computer services, which accounted for one million incidents -- 28 percent of the total.

In addition to fraud, 1.4 million UK adults said their computers had been victims of a computer virus, while a further 600,000 people are thought to have been direct victims of unauthorised access to their personal information, most likely via hacking.

The addition of the 5.8 million incidents of cybercrime to the ONS' crime survey means overall crime figures are set to double as online crime is added to the 6.3 million incidents of other types of crime recorded during the previous year.

Nonetheless, the ONS points out that crime hasn't outright doubled in the space of 12 months, but rather the rise of cybercrime hasn't been recorded over the years.

"This is the first time we have published official estimates of fraud and computer misuse from our victimisation survey," said John Flatley, head of crime statistics and analysis at the ONS.

"However, it would be wrong to conclude that actual crime levels have doubled, since the survey previously did not cover these offences. These improvements to the Crime Survey will help to measure the scale of the threat from these crimes, and help shape the response," he added.

The British government has made various efforts in attempt to tackle cybercrime, including the launch of a law enforcement unit to tackle the dark web and plans to open a new 'state-of-the-art' cyber defence facility to strengthen infrastructure.

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