Computer systems in the UK, US and Germany are among the likely targets of political, military, economic and technical...
espionage, with cyber spying posing the biggest security threat in 2008.
This is a major finding of the third annual Virtual Criminology Report based on input from organisations such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), the London School of Economics, Nato, and the FBI.
Other main trends include an increasing threat to online services such as banking, voice over IP, and social networking, along with the emergence of increasingly complex and resilient malware.
The report, commissioned by computer security firm McAfee, found that China was spearheading around 120 countries expected to be competing for cyber supremacy in the next 10 to 20 years.
The report said high-tech crime was now a threat to national security and not just industry and individuals, with government and allied groups using the internet for cyber spying and cyber attacks.
"There are signs that intelligence agencies around the world are constantly probing other governments' networks looking for strengths and weaknesses," said Peter Sommer of the London School of Economics, one of the report's authors.
Targets include critical national infrastructure network systems such as electricity, air traffic control, financial markets and government computer networks.
According to Nato, many governments are still unaware of the threats facing them and some were leaving themselves open to cyber attack.
"Global cybercrime is a major problem costing businesses and consumers billions a year, and the wider use of technology in developing countries only further opens the window of opportunity for evildoers," said Dave DeWalt, president and chief executive at McAfee.