An international team of researchers has created what they are calling the world’s first "World Cybercrime Index," wherein the world’s key cybercrime hotspots are ranked according to their standing as significant sources of cybercrime activity.

According to its developers, the Index demonstrates that just a small number of countries harbor the greatest cybercriminal threats, with Russia reportedly topping that list — followed by Ukraine, China, the U.S., Nigeria and Romania.

Researchers suggest that the study will allow the public and private sectors to direct their resources toward key cybercrime hubs while subsequently spending less time and resources on cybercrime countermeasures in countries where the problem may not be as significant.

The Index’s developers also suggest that it will serve as a tool for removing the so-called veil of anonymity surrounding cybercriminal offenders, offering a more comprehensive understanding of the geography of cybercrime and how different countries specialize in assorted types of cybercrime. Further, this data, according to the developers, could also point to the emergence of any new cybercrime hotspots.

To develop the Index, the team collected data by surveying about 92 leading cybercrime experts from across the globe involved in cybercrime intelligence gathering and investigations. These experts were asked to list five major categories of cybercrime; nominate countries that they believe to be the most significant sources of each of these categories of cybercrime; and subsequently rank each country on cybercriminals’ impact, professionalism and technical skill.

The Index’s developers suggest that cybercrime has been a mostly invisible phenomenon due to offenders being able to mask their physical locations by concealing themselves behind fake profiles and technical protections.

"Due to the illicit and anonymous nature of their activities, cybercriminals cannot be easily accessed or reliably surveyed. 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," the Index’s developers concluded.

"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. Many people think that cybercrime is global and fluid, but this study supports the view that, much like forms of organized crime, it is embedded within particular contexts," the developers added.

An article detailing the Index,Mapping the global geography of cybercrime with the World Cybercrime Index,” appears in the journal PLoS ONE.

To contact the author of this article, email