Cybercrime in a digital age

Cybercrime in a digital age

A new era of crime gives rise to an unprecedented number of online offences and computer fraud. Almost half the crimes reported in the UK in the 12 months leading up to September last year, were related to fraud or computer misuse, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Last month, the ONS released figures showing that 11.8 million crimes were reported in the UK from September 2015 to September 2016, and 5.6 million of those were computer misuse or fraud related.

Last November, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a new five-year £1.9billion scheme to help prevent Cybercrime in the UK. Mr Hammond’s aim is to increase know-how throughout the UK workforce. “Cyber skills need to reach into every profession,” he said.

The National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU) is the arm of the National Crime Agency (NCA) deployed to combat crimes committed using online or electronic media. Since 2010, it has been widely acknowledged by security agencies, including the NCA and its predecessor, the Serious Organise Crime Agency, as well as Interpol and other international forces, that Cybercrime represents a significant threat to national security.

The NCA investigates individuals and networks suspected of committing the following types of prohibited acts, among others:

  • Offences under The Computer Misuse Act 1990

Unauthorised access to computers under this statute is punishable by a custodial sentence of up to two years. The purpose of this legislation is to protect businesses and individuals from wilful attacks and thefts of information.

  • Malware and phishing offences.

Phishing is a method used by fraudsters to access valuable personal details, such as passwords and PIN numbers. Often, these criminals then pass the details on to third parties for monetary gain. Phishing can also include sending viruses or ‘malicious’ email attachments with a view to infecting others’ electronic equipment, such as computers or mobile phones.

  • Hacking

Hacking is the most commonly used method for infiltrating networks. Hackers use specialist software, often created by themselves or other cybercriminals, to gain unauthorised access to computer networks, such as business intranets or encrypted programs. The hackers then take administrative control of these and glean such sensitive information as strategic plans and commercial data. Again, the hackers often then sell this data on to fraudsters for a fee. The process of hacking undeniably puts the operation of e-commerce at risk.

  • Keylogging

This is an advanced practice where fraudsters are able to track your key strokes, which is another method of gleaning sensitive information for use in unlawful pursuits.

  • DDOS attacks

Distributed Denial of Service attacks aim to prevent legitimate access to online services. Cybercriminals do this by overwhelming communication links with a mass of traffic. The result of this is that users are unable to access or publish on the service owing to the fact it cannot handle the volume of incoming traffic. Better known forms of these attacks are ‘Trojans’ and ‘email-bombs’. In a commercial world where online services are key, these attacks can be tantamount to restraints of trade.

Other activities the NCA investigates include; cloning, internet fraud, identity theft and bitcoin fraud.

Blaser Mills has experience defending individuals accused of money laundering, general fraud and possession of indecent images, all of which can fall under the umbrella of Cybercrime. Our firm caters for international clients, which makes us well-placed to advise on what are characteristically transnational, and often cross-jurisdictional, investigations.

If you would like advice on the law surrounding Cybercrime, have been accused of committing an offence under the Computer Misuse Act, or are a business owner with concerns about being targeted, please contact Daniel Martin on 01784 273 907 or email