The proceeds of cybercrime now exceed that of the illegal drugs industry, a US Treasury advisor has claimed.

According to Valerie McNiven, former World Bank security expert, the turnover of electronically-related crime exceeded $105 billion in 2004, for the first time over-taking drugs as the number one high-profile criminal activity.

Her definition of cybercrime was wider than merely direct fraud, and included corporate espionage, manipulation of stocks, child pornography, cyber-extortion and various forms of piracy.

"Cybercrime is moving at such a high speed that law enforcement cannot catch up with it," she told a conference at a banking security conference in Riyadh, reported Reuters. In addition to the tardiness of the authorities to the issue, a major driver of cybercrime growth was economic growth in hard-to-police developing countries.

"When you have identity thefts or corruption and manipulation of information there (developing countries), it becomes almost more important because... their systems start getting compromised from the get-go," she said.

In a parallel development, a Conservative MP has called for the UK government to appoint a "cyber security Czar" to oversee the fight against the threat of electronic crime.

In a speech to the House of Commons, Mark Pritchard urged the government to consider making cyber security a special case in the same way as drugs, which had seen "Czars" appointed to oversee the policing response.

"The rise in aggressive viruses and cyber security threats is a clear and present danger to Britain's national security," he said. "It is also a threat to Britain's economic well-being. More than 90 per cent of cyber threats have a major impact not only on the originating country but across the globe."

The setting up of a citizen identity card database by the UK authorities risked making the problem much worse in the event that it was itself hacked, he added.