England and Wales suffered as many as 5.4 million fraud and computer misuse offences in 2016, as per a recent report from the Office for National Statistics.

Fraud and computer misuse offences accounted for almost half of all crimes committed in England and Wales in 2016, which also included theft and burglary.

While the level of reported crime in 2016 (11.5 million) fell short of the 1995 level which was 19 million offences, it may be interpreted that crime levels have reduced drastically. But unlike 1995,  fraud and computer misuse offences now account for almost half of all crimes, undoing much of the good done by law enforcement and other agencies over the last two decades.

“Estimated incidence rates for fraud (8 in 100 adults) show that this type of crime (fraud and computer misuse offences) was one of the most prevalent when compared with other offence types measured by the survey. The incidence rate for computer misuse (4 in 100 adults) has been estimated at a similar level to that of vehicle-related theft (4 in 100 adults) and criminal damage (5 in 100 adults), whilst the robbery incidence rate estimated by the survey (less than 1 in 100 adults) falls substantially lower than incidence rates for all other offence types,” said the report.

The fraud and computer misuse offences included unauthorised access to personal information, computer viruses, computer misuse, advance fee fraud, non-investment fraud, general fraud and bank and credit account fraud. Since this is the first time that the Office for National Statistics has included fraud and computer misuse in its annual crimes data, the survey could not reveal a comparative picture of such offenses with previous years’ data.

‘We know that cyber criminals are becoming ever more sophisticated, and these figures clearly demonstrate how prevalent attacks have become. With the growth of internet banking and our increased reliance on technology, they should also underline the importance of ensuring that cyber security is a high priority. Businesses must keep on top of cyber security developments and ensure that effective control systems are put in place to minimise the risks of a successful breach,’ said Steve Snaith, head of technology for Risk Assurance at RSM to Small Business.

There are various solutions to tackle such incidents of cyber-crimes against the general population. For example, increased usage of bio-metrics as against user IDs and passwords can reduce hacking to a larger extent, considering that passwords are easy to crack and most people do not use complicated ones. At the same time, cyber-awareness programmes and teaching people on how to detect phishing attacks or ransomware can curb the menace of fraud and computer misuse by a large extent.

The recent introduction of smart home devices in the UK has also increased chances of ordinarily people getting spied on. Security experts have expressed concerns on devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo being connected to one email address, making it easy for visitors and intruders to activate and access sensitive data. At the same time, IoT devices getting hacked can lead to disastrous consequences.

“There is a big move with having things like Hive in your house, [which if hacked could] set someone’s house on fire. I think there are lots of examples where it has been shown there is a threat,” said Rashmi Knowles, RSA’s chief security architect for EMEA.

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