Police urge public to step up online security
A senior detective in charge of the PSNI’s Cyber Crime Centre has said a UK survey published today should make everyone in Northern Ireland re-assess their security online.
In a specially commissioned survey for Get Safe Online Week (19-25 October), over
one in five (21%) victims of a cybercrime believe they were specifically targeted by fraudsters and over a third (37%) had been left feeling vulnerable as a result. Only 38% of the victims believed that the incident was down to bad luck and over half (57%) think it’s becoming much easier to fall victim to an online crime.
41% of people who have been a victim of a cybercrime lost money with the average person losing £738. Men, however, are likely to lose significantly more, with the average loss being £839 compared to £617 for women. Alarmingly, 8% stated they had lost in excess of £5,000.
Detective Chief Inspector Douglas Grant, from Serious Crime Branch, said: “These survey figures, which include Northern Ireland respondents, are a timely reminder to all of us who work, socialise or shop online that we should take steps to prevent ourselves from becoming victims of fraud or cybercrime.”
Separate figures, prepared by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) for Get Safe Online Week, give an indication about the scale of online crime, with over £268 million lost nationwide to the top ten internet-enabled frauds reported between 1 September 2014 and 31 August 2015. The £268 million total comes from reports of fraud, calculated when the first contact to victims was via an online function.
DCI Grant said: “I would encourage everyone who goes onto the internet for whatever reason to think about their online behaviour and ensure that they do everything they can to protect themselves. Simple measures such as limiting the amount of personal information shared on social media platforms, using anti-virus software and keeping that software up-to-date can help to prevent online crime.”
The Get Safe Online survey went on to show that over a quarter of 2,000 victims surveyed (26%) had been scammed by phishing emails or ‘vishing’ phone calls. These are a much more targeted type of scam where the fraudster uses data about the victim, pieced together from various sources such as social media and intercepted correspondence to sound convincing, and manipulates them into sharing confidential information linked to online accounts.
Other areas where victims were targeted include:
• Fake tax rebate emails (13%)
• Phone/tablet/laptop hacking (9%)
• Identity theft (5%)
• Types of harassment (4%)
• Personal images stolen via webcam hacking (1%).
Despite an increased public awareness of the risk of cybercrime, the survey indicates that people are still struggling with basic safety precautions. Almost two thirds (65%) claim they could do more to stay safe online. Almost a quarter (22%) aren’t conscious about using strong passwords, 13% still have public social media accounts and one in 10 don’t bother using security software on their connected devices.
Tony Neate, chief executive of Get Safe Online, the joint public private internet safety initiative, said: “As we spend more of our lives online, our digital footprints inevitably get bigger. Sadly, that means opportunist fraudsters will use information about us to make their scams more believable and difficult to detect. Being online offers so many great opportunities for everyone and we would never discourage anyone from enjoying and benefiting from them. However, we do urge people to take precautions so they don’t make themselves vulnerable to underhanded scammers.
“There are simple steps we can all take to protect ourselves online, including putting a password on any of your connected devices such as your phone or tablet, using the highest security settings on your social media accounts and never disclosing your confidential details when you are contacted by an email or on the phone. A legitimate organisation would never ask you to do this.
“The results of our survey show that cybercrime is getting much more personal so this Get Safe Online week we’re calling for people to be aware of this and take the small steps to keep themselves safe. Don’t let the criminals win!”
If you think you have been a victim of cyber-enabled economic fraud (i.e. where you
have lost money) you should report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting
centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.
If you are a victim of online abuse or harassment, you should report it to PSNI.
For general advice on how to stay safe online go to www.GetSafeOnline.org.