A comprehensive survey of cybercrime in the South East of England has shown that a fraction of people report incidents to the police.
A regional cybercrime study coordinated by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey and supported by police and crime commissioners (PCCs) across the South East, looked at the types of cybercrime residents are falling victim to and the extent to which people currently protect themselves online.
The results will be used to help guide preventative strategies across the region and develop a number of local projects.
It found 83 per cent of people believe cybercrimes are of equal seriousness to “physical” crimes and that 84 per cent of respondents had experienced some form of attempted cybercrime in the last 12 months – with 15 per cent subsequently becoming a victim.
Nearly 30 per cent of victims recorded some form of financial impact. However, only one in three reported offences to the authorities (Police, Action Fraud or Trading Standards).
Detective Inspector Andy Haslam, Head of the joint Surrey and Sussex Cybercrime Unit, said the survey results were “extremely important”.
“For the first time it gives us an idea of how people are affected by cybercrime. They confirm what we are already seeing in that online crime is affecting a large proportion of society, but offences are going vastly un-reported,” he said.
More than 11,500 people replied to the survey. Respondent’s top cyber-related concerns were identity theft and malware (89 per cent and 84 per cent respectively), followed by companies misusing their data (76 per cent) and bank fraud (70 per cent).
The survey revealed that, while 80 per cent of people consider themselves to have a ‘complete’ or ‘good’ understanding of the risks they face online, many are still failing to take basic security steps and only eight per cent make active use of national schemes such as CyberStreetWise and Get Safe Online.
Surrey Deputy PCC Jeff Harris said: “While we’ve known for a long time cybercrime is a growing problem, we haven’t really understood how it impacts on our local communities. However, thanks to the brilliant response from residents, we are now in a far better position to work with our partner agencies to reduce the risk of victimisation.”
Hampshire PCC Simon Hayes said: “Cybercrime is vastly under reported, so this survey gives us a better picture of the real scale of these crimes.”
Data from the survey, which ran from November 17, 2015 to February 1, 2016, will be made available on www.cybersafesurrey.org.
The Government estimates cybercrime costs the economy around £27 billion per year.
PCCs from across the region called on the public to take steps to protect themselves from this threat through using strong passwords, checking social media privacy settings and keeping anti-virus software up to date.