NEWS COMMENT: Online crime is targeting society every day

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Cyber crime sounds remote and flashy – an unknown masked teenager hacker sitting in a bedroom obliterating hi-tech government defences while watching graphics swirling around on a computer screen.

But as we report in our pages today, the harsh reality is a lot less dramatic – but can be devastating: even a theatre suffered an attack, costing it £300 and the potential loss of 54,000 files.

Cyber crime is a growing problem affecting all aspects of modern life.

But therein lies a major problem, perhaps on a par with the damage wrought by such attacks: no-one knows the extent to which online crime is ruining lives.

As always, police are urging people to report crime as it happens to people.

But it seems thousands of cyber crimes are going unreported, with The News and Johnston Press Investigations finding police are told about just two per cent of such crimes. The fear of reputational damage or of future repercussions and – of course – plain embarrassment, seem to be the main drivers behind this.

Banks hit by hackers are never going to announce this publicly, if they can avoid doing so.

As Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Fyfe, head of crime at the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, tells us: ‘There is no law that people have to report a crime when they suffer it.

‘If a bank suffered a £1m robbery after having their safe blown open, technically, they would not be obliged to report that to the police.’

It goes without saying that if police and the National Crime Agency had better numbers to go on, then a better, bigger, response could be set up. So it’s reassuring that Hampshire police is launching its own digital investigation team, supplementing existing units to offer new expertise.

Hundreds of people have no doubt suffered spam emails, and it would not be sensible to report each of those. But if we are to expect a more sophisticated response from government and police, then we need to let them know when we suffer attacks.