Why you need to protect yourself from cyber crime

Published by Helen Knapman on 05 December 2017.
Last updated on 05 December 2017

‘It’s my responsibility to keep myself secure online,’ say Moneywise users: Protect yourself from cyber crime

Nearly half (46%) of Moneywise.co.uk users strongly agree with the statement that it’s their responsibility to keep themselves secure online.

While over a third (34%), tend to agree that they need to ensure their own security when using the internet and apps.

The encouraging findings come as part of a poll of nearly 800 users, which Moneywise recently ran in partnership with the government’s Cyber Aware campaign. See the full results in the pie chart below.

The importance of protecting yourself from cyber crime

We didn’t ask Moneywise users why they felt the need to actively protect themselves rather than rely on businesses to do the job for them, but one possibility could be due to the number of high profile data hacks we’ve seen in the last few years.

Only last month the Information Commissioners Office said that 2.7 million Uber user accounts had been affected by a data breach in October 2016 - visit the National Cyber Security Centre website for information on what’s happened and what you should do about it.  

Meanwhile, Equifax, TalkTalkTesco Bank, and Yahoo are among other high profile companies that have admitted customer data – including bank details in some instances – has been stolen.

A different type of cyber crime has even seen law firms increasingly being targeted by criminals pretending to be conveyancers. Here, tricks used are similar to phishing scams in that they include changing the email address of the solicitor slightly or emailing the home buyer to say that the solicitor has new bank account details where they need to transfer their deposit money to. The Solicitors Regulation Authority saw a record number of reports about this type of crime in the first quarter of this year, with £11 million stolen between April 2016 and March 2017.

But these cyber criminals aren’t just targeting businesses, consumers are also being contacted directly.

Santander, for example, found that almost three-quarters (74%) of Brits it surveyed have been targeted by phishing scams in the last year, and that some 65% of those surveyed have received a phishing email.

What’s worrying is that these cyber criminals are getting ever more sophisticated they might contact you masquerading as services, such as banking or retail outlets, which the criminal already knows you use from obtaining bits of your data elsewhere – perhaps from a previous data breach. They can then use spoof email addresses and details of trusted contacts to make an email look even more legitimate.

Another scam is where cyber criminals will attempt to get control of your computer by downloading malware onto it. This is likely to happen if you click on a link or attachment in a phishing email.

And it’s not just computers that are at risk. The National Cyber Security Centre and the National Crime Agency warned earlier this year that it is likely that so-called ‘ransomware’ will target devices including smartphones, smart TVs, smart watches, and even fitness trackers containing personal data such as photos and emails. While this data itself may not be inherently valuable and might not be sold on criminal forums, hackers may lock a victim’s device blocking the owner’s access to their data. This may be sufficiently valuable to the victim that they may be willing to pay for it.

Further evidence of the threat comes from an investigation by consumer group Which? this summer, which found that ethical hackers could access home products including routers and CCTV.

How to protect yourself from cyber crime 

So how can we be cyber aware? One of the most important things we can do is to:

  • Set up a strong, separate password for your main email account, which is often the gateway for fraudsters to access further personal and financial information about you. You should also consider setting a strong, separate password for all your online accounts.

The best way to create a strong password is to start by using three random words because length gives complexity. The strongest passwords also contain a mixture of capital and lower case letters, numbers and symbols – so you can simply supplement these within your three random words, so long as the substitutions aren’t easy to guess.For more information, see How to create a password to give you peace of mind.

When we polled Moneywise users on how likely they are to use a strong separate password for their email account, the majority (65%) said they already do and nearly a third (32%) said they don’t do this at present but are more likely to start doing so after reading our article on How to create a strong password.

Moneywise user Neil, who commented on the poll, wrote: “It is the responsibility of all users to protect themselves, however the commercial users have a responsibility also to protect themselves and their customers.” Another commenter, Hesperus, added: “It is my responsibility to look after what I can.”

For the full poll results, see the pie chart below.


 

Another key action you can take, is to:

App and software updates contain vital security updates, which help protect your device from viruses and hackers.

These security updates are designed to fix weaknesses in software and apps, which could be used by hackers to attack your device and steal your identity. Installing them as soon as possible helps to keep your device secure. 

When we asked Moneywise.co.uk users how likely they are to install these updates, we were pleased to see 87% of those who voted already install the latest software and app updates, although that still means one in 10 (13%) can improve their online security. See the pie chart below for the full results.


 

For more information and tips on how to protect yourself online, visit the Moneywise hub in partnership with Cyber Aware - Stay secure online: How to be Cyber Aware - and see Cyberaware.gov.uk.  

If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your financial provider immediately, and notify Action Fraud via its website or by calling 0300 123 2040. 

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