The head of the National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) has called on businesses to take cyber-crime more seriously.
Detective superintendent Len Hynds told delegates attending the Infosecurity Europe 2003 show that cyber-crime is no different from any other criminal activity and needs to be treated as such.
Hynds warned that the NHTCU has incontrovertible evidence that organised crime is moving in on e-commerce and that business would be increasingly hit.
"High-tech crime is an oxymoron; a classic contradiction in terms," he said. "It's not about technology, it's about people. If you're a victim of fraud it hurts every bit as much as in the real world. It's all crime."
Hynds's remarks came as the NHTCU released the results of a NOP survey on UK cyber-crime.
Excluding the two most common crimes - virus attacks and laptop theft - three quarters of the 150 businesses surveyed had suffered some form of high-tech crime.
Internal sabotage or financial fraud is still most likely to come from existing employees, but theft of sensitive information is almost equally likely to come from outside and inside.
More than one in five companies didn't even conduct regular security audits.
"Cyber-crime is a barrier to e-commerce," said Dr Jeremy Beale, head of e-business at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
"It has massive detrimental effects on businesses and their brands. The fear that cyber-crime could discredit e-commerce is a major concern to the CBI."
Hynds warned that the combination of opportunity, desirability and capability is causing the surge in high-tech crime.
The range of devices that can access the internet, high rewards and low risks made high-tech crime desirable to criminals, and the range of user friendly hacking tools gave everyone the capability to take part, he warned.
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