Research conducted by experts at the University of Cambridge shows that more needs to be done to police the internet and ensure that online threats do not impact on businesses and consumers.
The report said that almost £640 million is spent on internet security in the UK each year but at the same time less than £10 million is spent on enforcing laws set up against cybercrime.
The Cambridge team, working in partnership with researchers from mainland Europe and United States, also found that consumers in countries like Holland, Finland and the Republic of Ireland receive greater protection than the British do.
The fact that Ministry of Defence itself approached the Cambridge boffins and asked them to conduct the study has been seen by some as an admission that the UK has a poor record when it comes to online security.
Professor Ross Anderson, who led the research, said: “Cybercrime has created a swamp. You need to drain the swamp by arresting people.
“Some police forces believe the problem is too large to tackle. In fact, a small number of gangs lie behind many incidents and locking them up would be far more effective than telling the public to fit an anti-phishing toolbar or purchase anti-virus software. Cybercrooks impose disproportionate costs on society.”
He added that the US is the most protected nation because the government and the Federal Bureau for Investigation (FBI) work together to ensure that cybercrime is dealt with promptly, though they have been accused of being heavy handed in the past.
Recently Janet Napolitano, secretary for homeland security, said that cyber threats are on par with the activities of al Qaeda on the United States list of concerns.
“The greatest threats in actual activity we’ve seen aimed at the West and the United States has been in the cyber-arena in addition to al Qaeda and al Qaeda-related groups,” she told delegates at a conference to discuss online security.