Experts Question 'Official' Drop in Cybercrime

The latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) report on UK cybercrime reveals “computer misuse” has fallen 30% over the past year, but the body itself has cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from the figures.

The stats, covering the year ending June 2018, are a combination of estimates drawn from responses to new questions introduced to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), plus offences referred to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) by the public-facing Action Fraud.

The fall of 30% in computer misuse – defined as any unauthorized access to computer material  – was driven by a drop in computer viruses of 43% since the year ending June 2017. There was no significant increase in “unauthorized access to personal information.”

However, there are major caveats to both sources: CSEW questions cover the UK’s household population, rather than businesses and organizations, while Action Fraud figures on computer misuse “represent only a small fraction of all computer misuse crime, as many incidents are not reported,” according to the ONS.

“As this comparison is based on two data points only, caution must be taken in drawing conclusions about trends at this early stage,” it warned.

In fact, Action Fraud figures showed a rise in computer misuse crime of 4% during the period, driven by an increase in the “hacking – social media and email” category of 42%.

Mark Nicholls, director of cybersecurity at Redscan, agreed that the findings should be taken “with a pinch of salt.”

“We can’t overlook the fact that, for a variety of reasons, many digital crimes go under-reported. In many cases, criminal activities such as phishing are difficult to identify – people can be unaware they have been victimized. Cryptomining attacks, where criminals steal the processing power of computers to harvest cryptocurrency, are also becoming increasingly hard for people to detect,” he explained.

“We’ve seen a string of colossal data and privacy breaches this year, most recently Facebook and British Airways. These cases will impact millions of UK citizens, even if they don't consider themselves to be a direct victim of crime."

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?