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ONS Crime data: Cybercrimes are going unreported

03 February 2021

 Richard Hall, Senior Associate in the Data Protection and Cyber Security team at DWF comments on the ONS bulletin for Crime in England and Wales for the year ending September 2020.

"The ONS Report, when compared to previous reports, shows that there was a fluctuation in the number and type of crimes committed / reported during the 2020 lockdown periods in England and Wales. However, one continuing trend that can be seen from the data is the low number of computer misuse offences reported by individuals, with an estimated 29,094 computer misuse offences reported. 

"When compared to the 1.7 million computer misuse offences estimated to have been committed during the same period (Telephone-operated Crime Survey for England and Wales), this becomes a worrying statistic for the relevant authorities tasked with computer misuse enforcement and prevention.

"With the victim blame culture that exists with these offences, as well as the general public perception that there is limited action that the relevant authorities can or will take against the offending criminals, it is perhaps not surprising to see such low numbers of reports being made. In turn, the low level of criminal complaints being made, combined with the potentially high gains that can be made from cybercrimes, makes these offences an attractive proposition for would be criminals, which is only likely to perpetuate as the world starts to look at longer term remote working conditions. 

"There is no doubt that more can and must be done by the relevant authorities to tackle and prevent cybercrimes, and we should all be asking questions to scrutinise and hold the relevant authorities to account. However, on the evidence of the data available, we all need to take some responsibility and can all start to help through the most basic of actions, of reporting these offences when they arise and making a concerted effort to change attitudes towards these offences (just because someone makes a mistake to allow one of these crimes to be committed, it does not make the actions of the malicious actor any less criminal).

"If the relevant authorities are not even being told about these offences when they arise, they stand no chance of making real progress against the growing criminal activities in the cyber space and many criminals will go unpunished. This in turn creates greater risks for individuals and businesses alike, and keeps much of the onus on individuals and businesses to tackle cybercrimes at their own cost."

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