Cybercrime costs the UK economy £27bn a year, says the government.

Of the figure, £21bn is the cost to businesses - with nearly half coming from illegal filesharing - while £3.1bn is the amount lost by consumers and £2.2bn is the cost to the government. However, the figure is only an estimate and some predict the real cost could actually be much higher.

"It is a bit like terrorism - the more you know, the more frightening it looks," said security minister Baroness Neville-Jones.

Neville-Jones said cybercriminals are "fearless" and "do not think they will be caught". However, the government will unveil measures to hamper cybercriminals later this year and £650m in funding has been assigned to the scheme.

"I don't myself believe that the successful combating of this kind of crime is going to lie primarily through prosecutions," she said.

"I think it's going to be through much better defences and disruption - screwing up their network. It doesn't have to be an offensive capability, but it's perfectly possible as we know - just as an intruder can screw up a company's network, the reverse can happen."

Neville-Jones also said firms that refused to admit they had been victims of attacks for fear of "reputational damage" were not helping when it comes to catching cybercriminals.

"When we see a figure of £21bn it really highlights the level of damage that cyber criminals are doing to UK businesses," says Andy Philpott, Websense VP of sales for UK and Ireland.

"Modern hackers use blended attacks to steal data - these attacks target a number of different channels, such as email, web pages and social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Traditional security products are ineffective against these attacks as they only protect certain parts of the network, leaving other parts without a fighting chance."

Philpott added cybercrime is "clearly big business in the UK. Only a truly unified security architecture - which protects mobile workers and branch offices - can handle this next generation of security threat."

See also:  Cybercrime to cost the UK economy £1.9bn