The most recent Crime Survey from the ONS reveals the estimated level of cybercrime in the UK for the first time. What do these figures mean and what can be done by businesses to prevent cybercrime?

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has recently published the results of its latest Crime Survey for England and Wales, which, for the first time, includes statistics on cybercrime offences.

The results of this survey are gathered by questioning members of the public, so the survey takes into account crimes which were not reported to the police. The estimated number of fraud and cybercrime offences in the year ending March 2016 is 5.8 million. This comprises around 2 million computer misuse offences and about 3.8 million fraud offences, the majority of the latter relating to bank account fraud. The Crime Survey estimates all other heads of crime separately total around 6.3 million offences in the same year.

The addition to the Crime Survey of questions relating to fraud and cybercrime helps to show the level of these types of crimes in England and Wales. However, the true extent of the level of offending is likely to be higher. It is suggested that fraud has previously been thought of as mainly affecting banks and businesses. However, this survey shows that this is not the case, with the increasing use of computers, tablets and smart-phones on a day-to-day basis facilitating this type of crime.

Brandon Lewis, policing minister, said that “Fraud and cyber offences are not a new threat and the government has been working to get ahead of the game, committing to spend £1.9 billion on cybersecurity and cybercrime over the next five years.” Furthermore, the College of Policing has recognised the need for police officers to be trained to tackle these sorts of crimes, and launched the second stage of its cybercrime training last year.

Thomas Webb, Director of Burges Salmon's Fraud and White Collar Crime team, commented that: “Businesses in the UK need to get to grips with the prevalence of cybercrime and the risks that it poses to their operations. Businesses can take a number of steps to seek to mitigate the risks of becoming victims of cybercrime. These include, for example, carrying out an internal risk assessment, reviewing the integrity of their IT systems and, just as importantly, training their staff to spot potential cybercriminal activity.”