World-first 'Cybercrime Index' ranks countries by threat level

Thursday, 11 April, 2024

World-first 'Cybercrime Index' ranks countries by threat level

Following three years of intensive research, an international team of researchers has compiled the first ever ‘World Cybercrime Index’, which identifies the globe’s key cybercrime hotspots by ranking the most significant sources of cybercrime at a national level.

The Index shows that a relatively small number of countries house the greatest cybercriminal threat. Russia tops the list, followed by Ukraine, China, the USA, Nigeria and Romania. Australia comes in at number 34.

Co-author of the study Dr Miranda Bruce from UNSW Canberra and the University of Oxford said the study will enable the public and private sectors to focus their resources on key cybercrime hubs and spend less time and funds on cybercrime countermeasures in countries where the problem is not as significant.

“The research that underpins the Index will help remove the veil of anonymity around cybercriminal offenders, and we hope that it will aid the fight against the growing threat of profit-driven cybercrime,” Bruce said. “We now have a deeper understanding of the geography of cybercrime, and how different countries specialise in different types of cybercrime.

“By continuing to collect this data, we’ll be able to monitor the emergence of any new hotspots and it is possible that early interventions could be made in at-risk countries before a serious cybercrime problem even develops.

“For the first time we have reliable data on the location of cybercriminals, and we also have a way to measure their impact,” she added. “Government agencies and private enterprises tasked with tackling cybercrime now have a much better understanding of the scale of the problem in their own backyard.

“Up until now, you had to be an experienced cybercrime investigator to know where cybercriminals actually live, but now we can share that information with the public, governments and businesses. It means that we now have a much clearer picture of the extent of the problem and can target our efforts in the right direction.”

The data that underpins the Index was gathered through a survey of 92 leading cybercrime experts from around the world who are involved in cybercrime intelligence gathering and investigations. The survey asked the experts to consider five major categories of cybercrime, nominate the countries that they consider to be the most significant sources of each of these types of cybercrime and then rank each country according to the impact, professionalism and technical skill of its cybercriminals.

World Cybercrime Index summary map.

World Cybercrime Index summary map. For a larger image click here.

Another co-author of the study, Associate Professor Jonathan Lusthaus from the University of Oxford in the UK, said cybercrime has largely been an invisible phenomenon because offenders often mask their physical locations by hiding behind fake profiles and highly technical protections.

“Due to the illicit and anonymous nature of their activities, cybercriminals cannot be easily accessed or reliably surveyed. They are actively hiding,” Lusthaus said. “If you try to use technical data to map their location, you will also fail, as cybercriminals bounce their attacks around internet infrastructure across the world. The best means we have to draw a picture of where these offenders are actually located is to survey those whose job it is to track these people.”

The World Cybercrime Index has been developed as a joint partnership between the University of Oxford and UNSW and has also been funded by CRIMGOV, a European Union-supported project based at the University of Oxford and Sciences Po.

The paper ‘Mapping the global geography of cybercrime with the World Cybercrime Index’ is available online here.

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