Committed crime-fighters or just plain clueless? Why UK's law makers are the real threat to our security

How bluster ruled the day at the London conference on computer crime...

...gather communications from thousands of mobile phone users from across a large area and block their mobile phone signal.

And despite Hague telling the conference that the UK government now rejects "the view that government suppression of the internet, phone networks and social media at times of unrest is acceptable", it was Cameron himself who, in the wake of England's riots in August, said the government was considering the need for new powers to shut down social networks during times of unrest.

All told, the UK government actively supports laws and technology that allow the state and companies to censor access to the internet and monitor how it is used.

For Cameron and Hague to talk of their commitment to light-touch regulation and to pretend the problems of piracy, IP theft and other illegal activity online can be tackled at no cost to basic internet freedoms is a nonsense.

What is perhaps more disingenuous, and more troubling, are the meaningless figures that UK politicians choose to trot out as evidence of the scale of the online threat.

Hague told the conference that online crime is growing exponentially. His proof? Security vendors, he said, had detected more than six million unique types of malware in the first three months of the year.

Six million sounds like a large number but as Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant with security vendor Sophos, told silicon.com: "Counting malware is pretty meaningless these days. Yes, we see about 150,000 new unique samples coming into SophosLabs every day - but what does that actually mean to the user? After all, the vast majority of those samples are variants of malware we have seen in the past and may even be already proactively protected against".

Similarly, in his speech to this week's conference, Cameron trotted out official estimates that online crime costs the UK £27bn each year. The problem with these stats is that even the government admits they are largely based on guesswork. Speaking at the time the figures were first announced, the then security minister Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, said: "One of the issues is that the information base is poor and that we need to flesh it out over time. The figures you are getting today are estimates," she said.

Authorities need to start capturing reports of online crime in detail. Then perhaps our government could get a better grip on the scale of the problem and how to deal with it.

When UK cabinet members willingly repeat such meaningless and shaky figures about online crime, it raises this troubling question: How can politicians successfully draw up new laws to tackle a problem they don't appear to understand?.