A leading police officer has said that Britain is losing the war on cybercrime.
Head of City of London Police, Commissioner Adrian Leppard, has said that online fraud is increasing "exponentially", with the cost to UK businesses rising to around £205 million in lost revenue last year. Most attacks originate from Eastern Europe and Russia, he said in a warning to MPs, admitting that police are struggling to keep ahead of increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals.
When asked by Keith Vaz MP, Chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, “Are we winning this battle?”, the Commissioner responded: “We are not winning. I do not think we are winning globally, and I think this nature of crime is rising exponentially.” He addded that the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has identified around 300 internet fraud gangs worldwide, and that groups in 25 countries have chosen Britain as their main target.
Half all fraud in Britain, which costs the country £70 billion a year, is conducted online, he added.
Wealthy retired people who are defrauded in 'share schemes' are amongst the most vulnerable groups. The cost to them is some £3.5 billion a year, with the average cost to the victim being £25,000. Half of those who lose out in the schemes are over 65. “That is a significant loss to the most vulnerable people in our society,” Mr Leppard said, adding those responsible should receive tougher sentences. He added that there is “plenty of evidence” that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups are using the proceeds of online fraud to finance their activities, with the police and security services attempting to disrupt such activity.
The Commissioner also warned that around a quarter of the 800 specialist internet crime officers could be axed due to spending cuts. “This is a very worrying criminal trend," he said. "The real worry is that, at a time when fraud and e-crime is going up, the capability of the country is going down.”