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The rise of cyber-crime in the UK

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Rising numbers of security breaches and data hacks have been reported by the Financial Conduct Authority in recent years. Cyber-attacks have been affecting both individuals and businesses leading to extensive financial losses and various other damages. The UK saw a fivefold increase in the rise of financial services related cyber-attacks in 2018 compared to the previous year. Seven major UK retail banks including Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland had to either shut down or minimise their system use due to customer data hacking. Both the operational and recovery costs resulting from these cyber-attacks was staggering. It is thus increasingly important that society is educated and aware of what cyber-attacks are and how they can be minimised. Here is a snippet from an interview recently conducted with cyber security expert and 247Moneybox.com IT manager Andrew Hughes.

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Can you tell us more about what constitutes a cyber-attack or cyber-crime?

Fundamentally, a cyber-attack or cyber-crime is a criminal activity carried out via the use of technology. It includes but is not limited to data hacks, fraudulent bank transactions, fraudulently accessing online banking applications, computer virus attacks and spam emails. If the appropriate cyber security measures are put in place, these types of crime can be avoided both at home and at the workplace.

How can cyber-attacks be minimised both by the average person and at the workplace?

There are various measures that can be implemented to minimise cyber-attacks. As these attacks tend to be via a computer or some form of technology, the type of attack is dependent on the types of technology used and how these interact with the aspects of a business or a person's daily life.

Passwords are one of the easiest means to get access to secure information. With access to the correct username and password combination, hackers can login and access information that could be used to carry out further fraudulent activity. For example, by accessing a database containing customer information, hackers may be able to utilise customer data e.g. card details to carry out fraudulent transactions.

A password manager tool should be implemented in the work place to encrypt and protect passwords, allowing these to only be accessed by authorised individuals. As an additional measure, passwords should always contain a variety of characters, symbols and numbers to make them less predictable. Refrain from saving any personal data or passwords on company computers, whether it be via the auto-fill function now available on most web browsers or in any documents saved on your desktop.

You may not require a specific software to store personal passwords, however, do ensure that passwords are varied and not easily identifiable e.g. do not use your name or date of birth as your password.

Other measures to minimise cyber breaches include

  • Install anti-virus software
  • Protect your devices with additional locks e.g. fingerprint or facial recognition
  • Limit your use of personal data on public devices
  • Ensure that your Wi-Fi is password protected

When it comes to storing and sharing personal data with third parties e.g. banks or building societies, social media sites and online shopping accounts, it is good practice to know what personal information they store about you and how they go about using it. This should be easily retrievable by either contacting the relevant organisation directly or by checking out their privacy policy that is usually accessible via their website. Online banking and online loan sites need extra caution when using. According to GDPR rules, personal data should not be shared or used by anyone without the subject's permission.

Is the frequency of cyber-crime cases going to increase in the UK and if so, what are the next steps?

There have been thousands of incidents reported by the National Cyber Security centre in recent years and this number is set to rise. These figures are still lower than expected as the current procedures in place are insufficiently robust when it comes to reporting and recording cyber breaches. The current figures are therefore not representative of the true extent of cyber-criminal activity.

Take Ransomware as an example. This is a type of malicious software that is designed to block access to a computers system until a sum of money is paid. These attacks take place across businesses more frequently than one thinks. However, most cases go unreported as businesses either don't want to deal with the consequences of submitting a report e.g. the need to shut down their services for a period of time, or they don't want to damage their reputation in their industry.

The first step to dealing with cyber-crime is to ensure that all incidents are reported quickly and appropriately to reduce the impact of the attack and prevent the perpetrator from striking again. Business and individuals need to take these attacks seriously by maximising security measures in place to protect sensitive information.

Make sure that you are not a victim of cyber-crime! Keep well-informed and stay alert.