Russia and China are protecting gangs of criminals engaged in cybercrimes such as internet fraud, blackmail and money laundering, according to a new study.
The annual Virtual Criminology Report, commissioned by McAfee, is based on interviews with staff at organisations such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the United Nations and the FBI, found that a number of countries were providing "political cover" for criminals against attempts at prosecution by other nations.
According to the report, "The cyber-kingpins remain at large while minor mules are caught and brought to rights. Some governments are guilty of protecting their in-country offenders."
The report is particularly critical of Russia and China, which it says are "especially reluctant to co-operate with foreign law enforcement bodies for reputation and intelligence reasons."
The report also warned that cyberterrorism is a growing threat, claiming hackers will soon become "powerful enough to launch attacks that will damage and destroy critical national infrastructure."
The report found that there was growing evidence of "cyber-espionage," with states responsible for co-ordinating internet attacks on other countries. India and Belgium have recently complained that they had come under web attacks believed to have originated in China.
Researchers said that they had uncovered evidence of Russia having carried out state-sponsored cyberwarfare against Georgia, attacking government computer networks during the recent conflict.