Wednesday 24 February 2016 11:39 pm

Cyber crime rockets: Shocking rise in senior staff attacking businesses as threat levels continue to soar following hacks at TalkTalk and Sony Pictures

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Cyber crime targeting British businesses has rocketed 130 per cent over the past two years, with so-called “silver fraudsters” stepping up their fraudulent activity.

The full scale of computer crime is laid bare in a new investigation by accountancy giant PwC that ranges from senior managers dipping their fingers in the digital till to large-scale cyber attacks and hacking.

Released this morning, the report says that 18 per cent of fraud is now committed by senior management, up from seven per cent in 2014.

“It is much easier for more senior individuals to commit economic crime, arguably because they’re able to circumvent the rules,” Tracey Groves, head of ethics and compliance in PwC’s forensics practice, told City A.M.

More than half of UK firms have fallen victim to economic crime over the past two years, with the rate of cyber crime jumping sharply.

PwC found that external attacks are an increasing problem for companies.

There has been no shortage of horror stories for firms that need more mot­iv­ation to get their cyber house in order. Earlier this month, it was revealed that 2015’s cyber attack against TalkTalk had cost the company as much as £60m.

Meanwhile, 2014’s hack attack against Sony Pictures not only reportedly cost it $15m (£10.8m), but also some of its executives their pride when embarrassing emails were leaked online.

Read more: Blackberry buys British cybersecurity company and launches business security consultancy

Professional services firm BDO recently pegged the value of reported fraud in the UK at £1.5bn in 2015, more than double compared with £720m the year before.

Lucy Frew, financial regulatory partner at Kemp Little, added that, while she did not believe that there was a “typical” perpetrator, “senior staff may also be more trusted – or less easy to challenge – than more junior staff”.

Keely Rushmore, associate at SA Law, told City A.M.: "Senior employees typically have higher levels of responsibility, minimal supervision, in-depth knowledge of the relevant systems and access to sensitive information."

PwC also found that half of economic crimes committed by a staff member are carried out by somebody over 40, while the number pulled off by staff aged over 50 had shot up to 18 per cent from six per cent in the space of two years.

PwC’s findings come just a few weeks before the senior managers’ regime is due to come into force for the banking sector.

Some experts believe that the cases exposed thus far could be the tip of the iceberg.

“The uncomfortable truth is that the vast, vast majority of cyber crimes go either undetected or unreported,” said Matthew Richardson, a barrister specialising in cyber crime at Henderson Chambers.

“Hackers are now more ambitious than ever,” said Mark Anderson, global corporate intelligence leader at PwC.