August 13th 2014
Four in ten adults do not always install security software on new computers and mobiles, increasing the risk of cyber criminals accessing their money, passwords and family’s privacy.
The warning comes at the start of a National Crime Agency (NCA) campaign designed to highlight the dangers of not being protected online. It aims to encourage computer, mobile and tablet users to download and update their security software, and comes in light of dozens of arrests around the world of those caught buying and distributing malicious software.
The initiative, which is being led by the NCA’s National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU),, highlights the extent to which cyber criminals could access your bank accounts, email addresses and even your webcam, allowing them to remotely watch you without touching your computer or mobile.
Of the almost 11,000 victims of viruses last year, many found themselves infected after opening suspicious emails, visiting infected websites, downloading risky software and, in some cases, putting infected memory sticks and CDs into their computers. In many cases, infections could have been spotted and blocked had the victim downloaded and updated their security software.
According to figures from the Office of National Statistics, there were 10,731 victims of a computer virus/malware/spyware reported to Action Fraud in 2013/14. The National Cyber Security Tracker, which is used to measure people’s online security behaviours, suggests that 37% of adults occasionally install security software on new internet devices. The tracker also highlights the number of people who take risks online such as sharing their passwords, downloading emails from unknown sources and not running scans to check for viruses, with 37% of women taking risks compared to 29% of men, and an average of 41% of all 18-44 year olds.
The NCA’s top tips for protecting yourself include:
Install security software and ensure your software and operating systems are up to date
Don’t open files either on a website or in an email from an unknown or suspicious source
Be cautious when putting USB sticks and CDs into your device
Buy legitimate software from reputable companies and download free software with caution
Jamie Saunders, the Director of the NCCU, said: “The internet is a great place to explore the world and do business, and the majority of people won’t experience any problems. But for the minority who leave themselves unprotected, not downloading and updating their security software can be very costly. It’s tricky to put exact figures on the cost of cybercrime to the UK and the number of people who don’t protect themselves, but what we do know is that far too many people continue to put themselves and others at risk online. However, the cost to individuals not only hits their pockets but also their personal and family life, which is why it’s important that everyone takes steps to protect their computer, tablet and mobile."
Dr Saunders continued: “The NCA will continue its fight to cut serious and organised crime on the streets and online by pursuing criminals and protecting the public. But for this to be successful we all have to help ourselves too. Downloading security software on all our electronic devices is just one way that we can all help tackle cybercrime.”
Organised Crime Minister Karen Bradley said: "The internet has radically changed the way we work and socialise, but cyber crime now poses a serious threat to the UK, and the Government has taken action to transform the way we respond. Through the National Cyber Security Programme, we have dedicated £860 million over five years to make the UK one of the most secure places in the world to go online. The NCA works with police forces to pursue those involved in criminal activity."
Ms Bradley continued: "This campaign, which draws on the NCA's experiences in fighting cybercrime, sheds light on some of the ways in which malware can operate. But it also shows there are a few simple steps that we can all take to reduce the chances of falling victim to cybercrime and ensure we can keep enjoying the benefits of the internet."
If you have been infected by a computer virus, malware or spyware and whether or not you have lost anything you should report your incident to Action Fraud. The more the public reports it, the more law enforcement can do to stamp out cybercrime. Visit www.actionfraud.police.uk