Organisers of Get Safe Online – the joint public-private sector Internet safety initiative – have revealed the financial and emotional cost of cyber crime. In a specially commissioned poll of 2,000 people by Vision Critical for Get Safe Online Week 2014 (running from 20 to 26 October), half (50%) of those who have been a victim of cyber crime (including online fraud or cases resulting in economic loss, ID theft, hacking or deliberate distribution of viruses and online abuse) said they felt either ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ violated by their ordeal.
Separate figures prepared by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) for Get Safe Online Week offer an indication as to the sheer scale of online crime, with over £670 million lost nationwide to the Top 10 Internet-enabled frauds reported between 1 September 2013 and 31 August this year. The £670 million statistic emanates from reported instances of fraud, calculated when the first contact with victims was via an online function.
Given that a significant number of Internet-enabled fraud cases still pass by unreported, the true economic cost to the UK is likely to be significantly higher.
The Get Safe Online survey also reveals that over half (53%) of the population now views online crime just as seriously as they do ‘physical world’ crimes, destroying the notion that online crime is ‘faceless’ and less important than other crimes. As a result, more cyber crime victims (54%) wish to unmask a perpetrator but only 14% have succeeded in doing so.
As stated, half (50%) of those individuals surveyed for Get Safe Online Week have been a victim of online crime although only 32% of these people reported the fact. Around half (47%) of victims did not know to whom they should report an online crime, although this figure is expected to drop due to the ongoing work of Action Fraud (the UK’s national fraud reporting centre) and the considerable Government resources now dedicated to fighting cyber crime.
On a more positive note, victims in the Get Safe Online poll said that their experiences have shocked them into changing their behaviour for the better, with nearly half (45%) opting for stronger passwords and 42% now being extra vigilant when shopping online. Over a third (37%) always log out of accounts when they go offline and nearly a fifth (18%) have changed their security settings on their social media accounts.
In stark contrast, however, most people still don’t have the most basic protection in place. More than half (54%) of mobile phone users and around a third (37%) of laptop owners do not have a password or PIN number for their device. That figure rises to over half (59%) for PC users and two thirds (67%) when it comes to tablet owners.
Supporting law enforcement’s response to cyber crime
Commenting on the survey results, Francis Maude (Minister for the Cabinet Office) stated: “The UK cyber market is worth over £80 billion a year and rising. The Internet is undoubtedly a force for good, but we simply cannot stand still in the face of these threats which already cost our economy billions every year.”
Maude continued: “As part of this Government’s long-term economic plan, we want to make the UK one of the most secure places in which to do business in cyberspace. We have an £860 million Cyber Security Programme in place which supports law enforcement’s response to cyber crime, and we’re also working with the private sector to help all businesses protect their vital information assets.”
In conclusion, the Cabinet Office leader added: “Our Get Safe Online and Cyber Streetwise campaigns provide easy to understand information for the public on how and why they should protect themselves. Cyber security is not an issue for Government alone. We must all take action to defend ourselves against the threats now being posed.”
Tony Neate, CEO at Get Safe Online, explained: “Our research shows just how serious a toll cyber crime can take, both on the wallet and on well-being. This has been no more apparent than in the last few weeks with various large-scale personal photo hacks of celebrities and members of the general public. Unfortunately, this is becoming more common now that we live a greater percentage of our lives in the online space.”
Neate went on to state: “This year, Get Safe Online Week is all about ‘Don’t Be A Victim’. We can all take simple steps to protect ourselves, including putting a password on our computers and mobile devices, never clicking on a link sent by a stranger, using strong passwords and always logging off from an account or website when we’re finished. The more the public do this, the more criminals will not be able to hide behind a cloak of anonymity.”
Detective Superintendent Pete O’Doherty, head of the NFIB at the City of London Police, said: “Cheap and easy access to the Internet is changing the world and transforming our lives. What many of us may be less aware of is the fact that financial crime has moved online and poses a major threat to people of all ages and from all walks of life. Men and women, young and old, rich and poor. It matters little who you are, where you live or what you do.”
O’Doherty continued: “It’s vitally important people are fully aware of the dangers around fraud and Internet-enabled fraud which is why the City of London Police, in its role as the National Policing Lead for Fraud and home to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, is fully supportive of Get Safe Online’s week of action.”
Importantly, O’Doherty added: “I would also call on anyone who has fallen victim to an online fraud to report this to Action Fraud. It’s only then that local police forces will be able to track down the main offenders and ensure victims receive the best possible support as they try to recover from what can be an extremely difficult and upsetting experience.”
Have you been a victim of cyber-enabled fraud?
George Anderson, director of product marketing at Internet security specialist Webroot, has also offered his views on the survey results.
“It’s sad but not surprising that 53% of British people have fallen victim to cyber crime,” asserted Anderson. “The Internet has been assimilated into our daily lives to the point where it’s easy to forget how hazardous it is if the proper security measures are not taken.”
Anderson continued: “The key to making the UK a safe Internet user zone is education. As a country, as communities and as individuals we should be actively promoting awareness of Internet safety and security issues. The Government’s research should not scare people away from online activities, but rather start the process of serious and continuous conversations whereby we evaluate the online precautions we take both at home and at work. Education should start at an early age, with parents and education bodies working to ensure future generations populated by ‘security savvy’ individuals.”
Adding to that message, Anderson said: “Understanding what preventative measures we can take ranges from a rudimentary awareness through to in-depth technical knowledge. However, far too many people have become too complacent with modern technology to even practice the basics. The modern person should by now know that computers ought to be protected by updated, Best-of-Breed anti-spyware and anti-virus software. They should practice safe surfing habits and harbour a full comprehension of online activities that would place their information at more risk than others. Also, they ought to be able to identify and understand website privacy policies and know when or when not to impart information regarding personal data.”
*If you think you may have been the victim of cyber-enabled economic fraud (ie where you have lost money), you should report the occurrence to Action Fraud and include as much detail as possible. Telephone: 0300 123 2040. Alternatively, visit: http://www.actionfraud.police.uk
**If you have been the victim of online abuse or harassment, you should report it to your local police force
***For general advice on how to stay safe online visit: http://www.GetSafeOnline.org