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65 hacking prosecutions last year, up from 47 – but still too small a percentage of reported cybercrimes

Published on 16 May 2019

Over 17,900 incidences of computer hacking reported in the UK in 2018. However, despite the rise last year, the number of prosecutions still represents less than 1% of reported cybercrimes in the UK.

Latest data show there were 17,900 reported cases of computer hacking in 2018**, up 74% from 13,200 in 2017. The most commonly reported types were ‘hacking through social media and email’ (9,030) and ‘hacking – personal’ (4,000).

RPC says the low proportion of prosecutions reflects the scale of the problems faced by police tackling a crime in which the perpetrators are so difficult to identify and pursue.

Richard Breavington, Partner at RPC, says: “Unfortunately, police action is not much of a dent in the problem of cybercrime.”

“Cybercrime has become accepted as a low-risk, potentially high-reward activity for organised criminals. If they act professionally, they can make substantial sums of money with very little chance of being caught.”

“Understandably the priorities for policing cybercrime have been in areas which have a potential nation state impact. A result is that the rise of less sensitive cybercrime has gone largely unchecked and it has been left largely to the private sector to deal with.”

RPC explains that many forms of cyberattacks, such as ransomware, can have a serious effect on businesses – potentially creating significant financial losses

A 2018 report*** estimates that cybercrime costs the global economy $600bn each year, or 0.8% of global GDP.

RPC explains that direct costs include those surrounding the technical investigation into the incident; improvements to IT infrastructure to prevent a similar incident occurring; and any legal costs and compensation payments.

Richard Breavington adds: “Cyberattacks can take a significant financial toll on businesses and yet relatively few actually have cyber insurance policies. Businesses cannot solely rely on the police so paying for private sector help through insurance can hold real value.”

Despite the rise of cybercrime, Government research shows that just 11% of businesses have taken out specific cyber security insurance policies.

RPC adds that certain sectors of the economy are more vulnerable than others to cyberattacks. For example, businesses in the financial and professional services sectors are often targeted as they hold large amounts of sensitive data on clients.

*Prosecutions made under the UK’s Computer Misuse Act 1990
**ONS, Crime in England and Wales, 2019
***MacAfee and Centre for International & Strategic Studies, 2018