Cyber-crime prosecutions have fallen for the first time in a decade, according to figures released by the justice ministry.
Experts today claimed the drop is evidence an under-resourced police force is struggling to get to grips with growing threat from online criminals.
There were 57 prosecutions under the Computer Misuse Act in 2016, falling from 61 in 2015. There has been a general rise in prosecutions over recent years; growing from 10 cases in 2010.
The figures were obtained by City law firm RPC under a Freedom of Information Act request to the Ministry of Justice.
The government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2017 found almost half of all UK businesses suffered a cyber breach or attack in 2016. But police are often hamstrung in their investigations with cyber-criminals being based abroad.
“Given the resources they have to work with, it’s unreasonable to expect the police in the UK to be able to track down cyber-criminals for whom covering their tracks electronically is often trivially easy,” said RPC partner Richard Breavington.
Neil Hare-Brown, the chief executive of Storm Guidance, a specialist cyber risk and cyber incident advisor, added:
The chances of the police in the UK being able to trace, identify, apprehend and prosecute a cyber-criminal in Russia for a cyber-crime in the UK are currently remote.
“International law enforcement needs significantly greater capability and until then every business needs to be on top of its cyber risks, and be insured should the worst happen.”
The UK has around 250 specialist cyber-crime police officers, according to RPC. During 2016 Britain experienced 1.9m computer misuse crimes according to the ONS.
Inga Beale said: “In a world where the threat from cyber-crime is when, not if, the idea of simply hoping it won’t happen to you, isn’t tenable."