In February, the UK government estimated that a “mid-range” estimate of the cost to the UK economy stood at £27bn per year, £21bn of which was lost from UK businesses. 

The chief executive of Detica security consultants, Martin Sutherland, recently put the figures into perspective when he stated that the cost to business of cyber crime to business was more than double the Home Office’s yearly budget.

Sir Ian Andrews, chairman of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), is equally concerned about the threat. Internet crime ‘is no longer the elephant in the room,’ he said. ‘It is the room.’

Making your business fraud aware

Cyber criminals operate more than 150 websites where fellow miscreants can buy stolen credit card details for as little as 70p. These sites sell details belonging to between 20,000 and 100,000 people at any one time, said Iain Lobham, director of the government’s national intelligence centre, GCHQ.

‘We are witnessing the development of a global criminal market place – a parallel black economy where cyber dollars are traded in exchanged for UK citizens’ credit card details, said Lobham, who is calling for a worldwide effort to address the problem.

Lobham described the level of attacks experienced by businesses, individuals and the government as having reached ‘disturbing’ levels. He admitted to concerted efforts by criminals to steal British designs and ideas from the IT, technology, energy, defence and engineering industries.

Businesses are being warned that, more than ever they need to keep customer details secure. Criminals will take any opportunity they can.

Malware fighting malware

To try and stem the flow of computer-based crime, the government pledged £650m at the start of 2011. Worldwide losses in cash and time due to cyber-crime are estimated at $338bn a year, and appear to be spawning a range of initiatives – some which are disputably legal themselves.

The German state of Bavaria admitted earlier this month that it used a Trojan program to gather intelligence on suspected criminals. The software company, DigiTask, confirmed that it created the program, which it has also sold to state and federal agencies in Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Officials in the UK have not ruled out the possibility of adopting malware in the fight against cyber-crime. ‘In terms of the sensitivities around particular Trojans, it wouldn’t be something that we would particularly like to talk about,’ says Lee Miles, head of cyber at Soca. ‘But if it’s available to be deployed within a lawful framework… then we would use any tactics at our disposal to fight organised crime.’