Over the past seven weeks, the UK has experienced more hacking attacks than any other country except the US and Germany, as pro-Islamic groups seek to disrupt economic targets.
In October alone, the worst month for cyber-attacks since records began, UK organisations suffered more than £40m worth of damage, research by consultancy Mi2g reveals. The total cost of hacking attacks in the UK has rocketed from £473m in 2001 to £780m in the first 10 months of this year.
The trend has alarmed security experts who fear that terrorist groups could cause widespread disruption with physical and Internet attacks. It has also raised questions about how the UK deals with this sort of threat.
"The UK has leapfrogged into second position for October, and third position for 2002 as a whole," said D K Matai, chairman and chief executive of Mi2g. "The main reason is the UK's support on the war against terrorism."
The number of monthly hacking attacks has tripled since 11 September, Mi2g's research reveals. For the first time this month, British firms and institutions have suffered more than twice as many attacks than organisations in any other country apart from the US.
Over recent weeks, British companies have been hit by a spate of denial of service attacks, Web site defacements, and attacks on their databases. In one attack alone this month, 200 Web sites were defaced with pro-Islamic messages.
The attacks have resulted in firms suffering lost productivity even if back-up systems are in place.