Christmas heralded a dramatic increase in the number of phishing attacks – predictably, some would say, given these economic times. In the same way that burglaries increase when houses are likely to be empty over Christmas, hackers use what should be a celebratory time of year to exploit the vulnerable.

Online shopping increases year by year, and at Christmas we spend more than at any other time. The pickings are rich for online criminals. This year, there were some high-profile cases of bogus online stores discovered and shut down by the police before Christmas, notably the Metropolitan Police Central eCrime Unit’s closure of more than 1200 bogus shopping websites. This shows how sophisticated cyber criminals have now become and to what lengths they will go to dupe shoppers into handing over cash.

I am heartened to see the UK police taking the threat of online fraud so seriously. But there is a bigger problem that we are facing. Today, more than 20 per cent of all viruses come from Brazil, with other major sources of malware including the US, Korea, India, China, Russia, and Poland. This is an international problem and national actions while laudable, will not be enough to protect us from an increasingly fragmented world of cyber crime. The EU has come together to combat this crime but without co-ordinating with countries like China, Brazil and even the US the effect is not significant.