The director general of the National Crime Agency (NCA) has said that cybercrime is evolving faster than "any other threat" his organisation faces.
Speaking at George Washington University, Keith Bristow said that while the internet had been a boon to crime investigators it had "fundamentally changed" the role of police officers.
"I am sure the small minority of the next generation which is inclined to criminal behaviour is more likely to be operating in an online environment than smashing windows and grabbing television sets," he said.
"Throughout history, feeling disenfranchised and disempowered has driven young people to demonstrate their frustration and now cyber-attacks are a new tool by which they can do that."
He added that all businesses working online are now exposed to hacking, citing a survey of British retailers that revealed that 79% had knowingly suffered an attack in a single year.
The rise was partly attributed to the ready availability of toolkits, which mean that people without great technical knowledge can commit cybercrime, as well as the rise of Hacking-as-a-Service more generally.
"The idea of Russian organised crime groups selling stolen data to Nigerian fraudsters would simply not have occurred to law enforcement officers twenty years ago," Bristow said.
"The groups were culturally different, geographically separated, and unlikely to mix. The internet has made that criminal interaction possible."
Perhaps controversially, he added that "you are safer creating complex and hard to remember passwords, and writing them down somewhere on a piece of paper in your house", reasoning that your logins are more likely to be decrypted online than stolen from your house.