'Dangerous inertia' among public in face of 'very real' threat of cyber attacks


Millions of people are "vastly underestimating" the "very real" threat of being hit by computer hackers, the Government has warned.

Crime figures suggest individuals are 11 times more likely to fall prey to online scams than a robbery but Britons still fail to take basic steps to protect themselves, a report has found.

Minister for Security and Economic Crime Ben Wallace said: "Cyber crime has been identified as one of the biggest criminal threats to British business, but it is also important that the public recognise that this threat is very real and could happen to them."

He said many people believe that hackers would only attack wealthy celebrities and big businesses, and highlighted a "dangerous inertia" in taking steps to keep personal details secure.

Introducing the report, he wrote: "A large proportion of the public and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) vastly underestimate the risk of cyber crime and feel powerless to protect themselves against it There is a widespread belief that cyber criminals focus only on big businesses and celebrities rather than 'ordinary' people; a misconception that there are few consequences of being a victim of cyber crime; and an array of inconsistent advice that leads to dangerous inertia.

"As a result of the perception gap, millions of people are leaving themselves, UK businesses and UK infrastructure vulnerable by failing to follow even the most basic secure online behaviours."

The report stressed that fraud victims do not always get their money back, with only 4,000 of the 232,000 people who lost money because of computer viruses in the year to September 2017 being fully reimbursed. Crime Survey data also showed that of 1.6 million victims of bank account and credit card fraud, one in eight were not fully reimbursed.

Cyber crime is under reported. There were an estimated 1.5 million computer misuse crimes in the year to September 2017, the report said, but only 21,745 were referred to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau in that period. Among businesses, more than half (57%) of those that experienced a cyber breach in 2016 failed to report the most disruptive attack to anyone outside the firm.

The Government recommends having a separate, strong password for email accounts and always installing software and app updates. It is spending £1.9 billion on a national cyber security strategy over five years.