Hacks on computer systems in businesses, universities and public services have shown the world the serious impact that cyber-crime can have. Cyber-crime isn’t just a problem for big companies; it’s important that we all take steps to reduce our risk when we use online services at home, when travelling, and at work.

Most of us will have robust security in our homes: 82% of households have double locks or deadlocks on their doors and 89% have window locks[1], and yet, when it comes to online security, only 52% regularly download the latest software or app updates as soon as they are available, which can help keep your devices secure.[2]

One of the consequences of cyber-crime that is hard to ignore is the cost. Action Fraud estimates that around £11 billion was lost to the UK economy as a result of fraud and cyber-crime in 2015/16; this works out at approximately £210 per person in the UK.[3] Other figures from the Crime Survey of England and Wales revealed the extent of cyber-crime: there were approximately two million offences relating to computer misuse in the last year to September.[4]

The impact of cyber-crime is not only financial – it’s psychological. Having your online identity compromised by someone that you do not know has parallels to the psychological impact of being burgled. As part of the Cyber Aware campaign to get Britons to take cyber security as seriously as home security, The Home Office spoke to victims of cyber-crime.

Alison Marriot, who had her email hacked said: “It caused a lot of embarrassment, it was a lot of phone calls, and it did make me feel a bit violated”.

Here are some proactive steps you can take, based on advice from the Cyber Aware campaign (which draws on technical expertise from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a part of the Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ)), to reduce the risks you face online:

  • Install the latest software and app updates

These contain vital security upgrades which help protect your devices from viruses and hackers.

  • Use a strong, separate password for your email account

Hackers can use your email to take control of many of your personal and business accounts. A good way to create a strong and memorable password is to use three random words or numbers, which are easy for you to remember, but difficult for other people to guess.

  • Secure your tablet or smartphone with a screen lock

This provides an extra layer of security to your device.

  • Always back-up your most important data

Protect your most important data such as your photos and key documents by saving them to an external hard drive or a cloud-based storage system.

These easy and free steps can go a long way to improving your online security – for more information about Cyber Aware head to cyberaware.gov.uk/.

To give information about someone you think may be committing cyber-crime, contact Crimestoppers online or call 0800 555 111.

If you have been a victim of cyber-crime, contact Action Fraud or call 0300 123 2040.

[1]               The Crime Survey for England and Wales recorded that in the year to March 2016 82% of households have double locks or deadlocks and 89% have window locks on at least some windows and doors.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/focusonpropertycrime/yearendingmarch2016#characteristics-associated-with-being-a-victim-of-property-crime

[2]               An online study was conducted with members of Ipsos MORI’s online panel.  The study was based on 4,002 individuals from the Ipsos MORI online panel and took place between 26 October and 14 November 2016.  Data were weighted by region, age, gender and social grade according to the national online profile.

Software update figures are based on the mean proportion who state that they ‘always’ or ‘often’ download the latest software updates from both laptops or desktops and tablets or mobile phones.

[3]               http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/news/fraud-and-cybercrime-cost-UK-nearly-11bn-in-past-year-oct16

[4]               http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/19/fraud-cyber-crime-now-countrys-common-offences/