Never before in human history has technology wrought such a rapid change in the way we live as the internet has achieved in a couple of decades. Most remarkable about this shift is the way in which it has inserted itself into nearly every aspect of our lives. We now communicate online, shop online, find partners online and work online.

As a result we now share intimate and important details about our personal and financial lives with a wide variety of companies and organisations. We do so because of the exciting new opportunities that this sharing makes possible, but it does also include an element of risk.

Criminals of all kinds – individuals, organised crime syndicates, state sponsored groups – have followed us onto the internet, and are seeking to obtain our information and use it for malicious ends. We are therefore all of us – consumers, companies, and government agencies – engaged in what Liam Fox describes in this Journal as a hidden war.

The true nature and extent of the threats, and the ways in which we can counter them, is evolving daily. This Journal explores that battleground, with contributors from both sides of the conflict. It offers comprehensive analysis of the problem, a variety of proposals for tackling it and consideration of the motivation of those seeking to obtain our information.

The war against cyber criminals is ably described by Adrian Leppard, the departing head of the City of London police and, in an unprecedented interview, by two senior figures from GCHQ. The private sector war on hacking is illuminated by Dr Adrian Nish from BAE Systems, Phil Zimmerman from Silent Circle, and John McAfee, the creator of the eponymous anti-virus software.

Politicians including Dr Liam Fox and Chi Onwurah share their political and personal perspectives. Tony Neate from Get Safe Online offers individuals some advice on staying safe, while Dido Harding, Chief Executive of TalkTalk, does the same for the corporate community.

The views of the hacking community are represented by a contributor from the organisation Anonymous and by Lauri Love who faces extradition to the United States for allegedly hacking NASA and the US Defence department, among others. The motivation that drives hacking is explored by Mary Aitken, professor of Cyber Analytics, and by Janis Sharpe, the mother of so called ‘No.1 Black Hat Hacker’ Gary McKinnon.

The Journal has been produced by freuds in collaboration with TalkTalk, who like nearly every major UK company, have themselves been the victim of hackers.

Its intention is not to provide the final word on the subject because, like conventional criminal activity, this is not a war that can ever be won, but in a civilised society it’s necessary that the forces of law and order stay ahead of those seeking chaos and criminality. That will only happen with cybercrime if all interested parties share information and ideas openly and without prejudice. The picture that emerges from what is the most comprehensive look yet undertaken at the war against cyber criminals is one of cautious optimism. We are as a society placing more and more sensitive information online, but we have also now awoken to the need to protect it. Hackers are clever, but disorganised. The right combination of sensible personal decisions, corporate investment and government intervention has the capacity to tip the scales in favour of the forces of law and order. But such optimism is only justified if we act together, decisively, now, taking the problem as seriously as it deserves, and implementing some of the compelling recommendations found in this Journal.