BBC Scotland said its latest investigation features claims that online attacks could prove fatal to many of the businesses targeted, primarily small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Detective Superintendent Steve Wilson, head of Police Scotland’s specialist cybercrime unit, told the programme that the Govan-based unit found cybercrimes overall hit a peak at the end of last year - with the business community specifically targeted.
He said: “We have seen a large number of businesses being targeted across Scotland in a multitude of sectors.
“Certainly the financial sector and agriculture, but predominantly in the small and medium enterprises up to 200 employees.
“A lot of businesses may not recover from a cyber attack simply because it’s stolen personal data. They’ve stolen customer data and it can cause real problems for the viability of that business in the long term.”
Gary Fairley, of the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, which works with firms around the country to build protection against online crime, said many businesses that have been targeted do not want it reported to police.
He said: “First and foremost it’s an admission that you’ve been vulnerable.
“One of the biggest risks is a reputational risk. As a customer would you do business with an organisation that could potentially lose your data or has lost customers’ data in the past?
“The risk to the Scottish economy is huge if we’re trying to build a Scotland that is safe to do business online and to invest in, whether it be from tech companies or from other overseas investors. If Scotland lacks basic cyber hygiene, then people won’t come here.”
James Lyne, head of global security at software company Sophos, demonstrated on the programme how criminals can steal data, by using a hacking kit which can be bought legally online.
The company tracks and records reported spam and malware attacks across the world.
Mr Lyne said: “Russia is a huge player in the global network of malicious code, in spam. Russian criminal gangs, Russian developers, and frankly just hosting services in Russia are often used as a major part of many of the campaigns that we see online today.”
The British Bankers’ Association, which represents more than 240 organisation, says it has taken robust measures to counter the cyber criminals.
Matt Allen, of the association, told the programme: “The evidence is clear that the criminals have changed their techniques quickly in response to bank controls and activity by public authorities.
“The British banking industry has some of the strongest controls anywhere in the world to address financial crimes and some of the, the most safe and secure banking arrangements.
“We’re not resting on our laurels. We do need to constantly update these measures and make sure we’re one step ahead of the criminals and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
:: BBC Scotland Investigates: Gangsters.com airs on BBC One Scotland tonight at 10.35pm.