LONDON Cyber crime costs the British economy some 27 billion pounds ($43.5 billion) a year and appears to be "endemic," according to the first official government estimate of the issue published on Thursday.
The study by Britain's Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance concluded digital crime is a growing, widespread problem, and attempts to address it have been hampered by a real lack of understanding and insight.
Business is bearing the brunt of the costs at an estimated 21 billion pounds, with the pharmaceutical, biotech, IT, and chemical sectors the worst hit.
However, government lost some 2.2 billion pounds and the cost to individual Britons amounted to 3.1 billion pounds, "The Cost of Cyber Crime" report said.
Last year, Britain's National Security Strategy placed cyber attacks as one of the top threats the country faces, along with terrorism, war and natural disasters.
Britain is now putting some 650 million pounds into a new national cyber security programme.
The report said 9.2 billion pounds was lost from intellectual property (IP) theft, 7.6 billion from industrial espionage and 2.2 billion from extortion, with large companies being targeted.
"Although the existence of cyber crime in the UK economy appears endemic, efforts to tackle it seem to be more tactical than strategic," the report said.
Martin Sutherland, managing director of information intelligence experts Detica, which helped compile the report, said: "We must mobilize joint government and industry forces to build a coherent picture of the threat and create a consistent mechanism that will allow businesses to report cyber crime without the risk of reputational damage," he said.
(Editing by Mike Nesbit)