Cybercrime offenses reported by individuals and businesses have risen 23% over the past year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The UK government body explained that 26,215 incidents were referred to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) by Action Fraud in the year ending March 2020.
The year-on-year increase was driven by a large uptick in the two highest-volume “computer misuse” types reported to Action Fraud. “Hacking – social media and email” saw a 55% increase from 12,894 offenses, and “computer viruses/malware” incidents soared by 61% to reach 6745 cases.
The double-digit increase in reported cybercrime came in spite of improvements to “internal case review processes” and an online reporting tool at Action Fraud in October 2018 which meant some offenses previously categorized as computer misuse are now being properly identified as fraud, ONS said.
On that note, when fraud is added to computer misuse, there was an increase of just 12% in cases reported to the NFIB over the period.
The ONS claimed that its Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) is a more accurate indicator of true levels of cybercrime in the region as it includes incidents that go unreported to the police. However, it only captures incidents reported by individuals.
“In the year ending March 2020, CSEW-estimated computer misuse offences did not change from the previous year, remaining at around 900,000 offences,” it noted. Fraud reported to the survey also remained pretty static, at 3.7 million cases.
George Glass, head of threat intel at Redscan, argued that the data behind the ONS report is still beset by quality issues.
“I still think this latest Crime in England and Wales report paints an inaccurate picture of computer misuse and online fraud cases in the UK. Action Fraud has been branded not fit for purpose for its failures to review reports from scam victims,” he added.
“This is the reason that the reporting system has now been overtaken by the NCSC. You only need to look at the huge numbers of reports of COVID-19 related scams to know that the situation is far worse than represented by these latest statistics.”