LONDON (Reuters) - Cybercrime is the second most common type of fraud reported by financial firms, more than double the level across other industries, as criminals turn increasingly to technology as their main weapon against banks, a survey showed.
Some 39 percent of financial services companies that suffered from economic crime last year said they had been hit by cybercrime, compared to 17 percent in other industries, according to the survey by consultancy PwC.
Banks in Europe and the United States are being told by regulators to toughen their defenses against cyber attacks, which have grown more frequent and severe as criminals and "hacktivists" become more sophisticated. Banks are often targeted for financial gain, but sometimes it is to disrupt business.
Hundreds of bankers took part in simulated "cyber attacks" last year in New York and London to test their resilience to such threats.
PwC said its survey even appeared to underestimate the scale of attacks, saying its experience showed a clear majority of financial firms had suffered cybercrime last year.
"Cybercrime is growing and the methods are constantly evolving. We see no abatement in attacks on banks' infrastructure," said Andrew Clark, a partner in PwC's forensics practice.
Some 45 percent of financial firms were victims of fraud last year, PwC's 2014 global economic crime survey showed. The survey, based on responses from 1,330 companies in 79 countries, showed theft was responsible for the highest share of economic crime, followed by cybercrime, money laundering, accounting fraud and bribery and corruption.
External fraudsters are behind most of the economic crime. The survey said most internal frauds were committed by junior staff or middle managers.
The profile of the typical internal fraudster is a male aged 31-50, with a university education.
(Reporting by Steve Slater; editing by Tom Pfeiffer)