Oxford researchers are optimistic that the world's first cybercrime index, which ranks the globe's hotspots, will help to tackle the often unseen crime.

The index, which ranks where cyber criminals are most active, named the USA in fourth place and the UK in eighth after Nigeria and Romania.

Russia and Ukraine are at the top, with the new index showing that a relatively small number of countries house the greatest cybercriminal threats.

The inventors of the index envisage it being used as a guide for the public and private sectors to allocate their assets effectively to the countries that are most rife with cyber criminals.

Herald Series: The index has been created by Oxford UniversityThe index has been created by Oxford University (Image: Newsquest)

The University of Oxford's Dr Miranda Bruce, the co-author of the project, said: "The research that underpins the index will help remove the veil of anonymity around cybercriminal offenders, and we hope that it will aid the fight against the growing threat of profit-driven cybercrime."

The index provides insights into the geographical distribution of cybercrime and the various types of cybercrime occurring in different nations.

Dr Bruce added: “By continuing to collect this data, we’ll be able to monitor the emergence of any new hotspots and it is possible early interventions could be made in at-risk countries before a serious cybercrime problem even develops.”

The index was assembled through a survey of 92 world leading experts in cybercrime intelligence gathering and investigation.

The experts nominated countries they considered to be the most significant sources of five specific types of cybercrime, and ranked them according to the impact, professionalism, and technical skill of their cybercriminals.

Associate professor Dr Jonathan Lusthaus from the University of Oxford’s department of sociology and the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, was another co-author on the project.

He said: “Due to the illicit and anonymous nature of their activities, cybercriminals cannot be easily accessed or reliably surveyed.

"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."

Professor Federico Varese from Sciences Po in France added: "Many people think cybercrime is global and fluid, but this study supports the view that, much like forms of organised crime, it is embedded within particular contexts.

“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."

He added that the World Cybercrime Index is the first step in a broader aim to understand the local dimensions of cybercrime production across the world.