The internet is now the 'leading channel' for multiple types of economic crime, according to the National Crime Agency (NCA).
In its latest strategic assessment of serious and organised crime in the UK, the NCA estimates that cyber crime costs the UK 'several billion pounds' every year.
As a proviso to this figure, it warns that there is no definitive measure of the threat or its cost to UK interests, however it is 'high and rising'.
The National Fraud Authority's annual fraud indicator last year estimated that the private sector lost £21.2 billion from fraud (both online and offline) in 2013, while the public sector lost £20.6 billion and individuals lost £9.1 billion.
The report says that 84 percent of all cases of identity fraud are delivered by the internet. False identities are widely used to enable serious and organised crime, for example to obtain assets, travel anonymously, and obtain financial services.
The NCA identifies cyber-enabled economic crime as 'particularly dynamic area' as criminals respond to new technology and initiatives by industry and law enforcement, such as improved two-factor authentication methods.
The report also observes that the public sector will be increasingly open to attacks and fraud as more government services go online. The agency says that the cost of organised criminal attacks on HM Revenue & Customs tax regimes was £4.7 billion in 2011/12 alone.
The NCA forecasts that virtually all types of cyber crime will increase, including targeted attacks on UK networked systems and disruption of access to UK networked systems and services. It says that cyber-dependent criminality (crime relies on the use of ICT) will grow, and that the support services critical to cyber-dependent crime will increasingly be used by other crime actors.
The agency launched in October 2013 and recently appointed Dr Jamie Saunders, previously director of international cyber policy at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as director of its National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU).