Security experts said that hackers could steal browser 'cookies' in Poodle attacks, potentially taking control of email, banking and social networking accounts.

London - The number of unique viruses and bugs created to attack the IT systems of the world's banks, utilities and governments will double this year, a leading cyber security expert has warned.

Organised crime and cyber terrorists are increasingly using malicious software, or malware, to steal money, pilfer corporate information and attack critical infrastructure.

South Korea has blamed the communist North for an attack last month that closed down ATMs and broadcasters, while the likes of BP, Mitsubishi and Google have all suffered from cyber attacks.

However, the estimated £27bn cost of cyber crime to the British economy could yet increase. Bill Conner, the chief executive and president at US-based IT security firm Entrust, warned that at the start of the year there were 300 000 variants of malware being created every day, with his bet being that this will be at least 600 000 by the end of 2013.

This would maintain the current trend, as there were only 120 000-150 000 variants a day being concocted in early 2012. Mr Conner told The Independent: “There is a volume issue, then you have a complexity issue. New malware is much harder to stop at the perimeters, like with firewalls.

“So, in the past it was like you could build a moat around the castle and keep the bad guys out and put down the drawbridge when you wanted to let the good guys in. The problem now is that the bad guys are already in the Tower of London, just where the Crown Jewels are.”

Mr Conner added that he didn't think that banks or other corporates had been able to estimate accurately just how much money they are losing because of cyber crime.

The US and China yesterday agreed to work together on preventing cyber attacks through a joint working group. The Chinese have frequently been forced to deny that the state has backed many of the cyber attacks that have been alleged to have originated from the country. - The Independent