Researchers have introduced the new 'World Cybercrime Index’; an effort to identify and rank the global epicentres of cybercrime. 

This index, the result of three years of comprehensive research, categorises countries based on the threat level their cybercriminal networks pose.

Russia has been identified as the most significant threat, with Ukraine, China, the USA, Nigeria, and Romania also featuring prominently in the rankings. Australia finds itself at position 34.

Dr Miranda Bruce from UNSW Canberra and the University of Oxford, co-author of the study, highlighted the index's potential to streamline efforts in combating cybercrime. 

“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,” she explained.

The index aims to provide a clearer picture of the geography of cybercrime, demonstrating how countries specialise in various types of illegal online activities. 

The researchers hope their initiative could lead to early interventions in countries at risk of becoming major cybercrime hubs.

Data for the index was collected through a survey of 92 cybercrime experts worldwide, focusing on different categories of cybercrime and assessing countries based on the impact and skill levels of their cybercriminals.

Associate Professor Jonathan Lusthaus, also from the University of Oxford, noted the difficulty in tracking cybercriminals due to their concealed operations. 

“Due to the illicit and anonymous nature of their activities, cybercriminals cannot

be easily accessed or reliably surveyed,” he said. 

“They are actively hiding. 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,” Dr Lusthaus said.

Professor Federico Varese from Sciences Po in France says the findings support the notion that cybercrime has similar roots to traditional organised crime.
“We are hoping to expand the study so that we can determine whether national characteristics like educational attainment, Internet penetration, GDP or levels of corruption are associated with cybercrime,” he said. 

“Many people think that cybercrime is global and fluid, but this study supports the view that, much like forms of organised crime, it is embedded within particular contexts.” 

The development of the World Cybercrime Index is a collaborative effort between the University of Oxford and UNSW, supported by CRIMGOV, a European Union-funded project. The full study, titled 'Mapping the global geography of cybercrime with the World Cybercrime Index', is accessible online.