Spending cuts and shrinking budgets are contributing to a rise in cyber crime among UK businesses, according to the results of a survey by PwC.
The company found that 51 per cent of UK businesses have fallen victim to economic crime in the past 12 months, and that 26 per cent reported losses from cyber crime.
The figures were significantly higher than the global average of 34 per cent of firms reporting economic crime.
The cost of such crime is also increasing. PwC reported that the number of incidents costing $100,000 to $5m has increased, as have incidents with losses higher than $5m.
Researchers attributed the rise in part to increased pressure on budgets, which have left many companies unable to deploy adequate security protection.
"The fact that 26 per cent of those who experienced an economic crime in the last 12 months reported a cyber crime is particularly alarming," said PwC forensics partner Tony Parton.
"This is a dramatic finding and marks the promotion of cyber crime to the premier league of fraud."
A recent report from the Ponemon Institute estimated that the cost of data breaches has risen by 70 per cent in the past year alone, much of the risk coming from internal sources.
The researchers found that many companies still believe that external attackers pose the greatest threat, but that the most damaging incidents occur from within the business.
PwC found that criminals carrying out attacks in the UK tend to be males between 31 and 40 who previously held middle management positions.
"There is a significant 18 per cent rise in the proportion of internal frauds carried out in the UK by middle management since we first reported a 'cappuccino crime wave' in 2009," Parton said.
"With two thirds [of cyber crime] now committed by middle management, it is surprising that our survey shows only one third of senior executives were aware of an economic crime being reported in their organisations."
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