UK Government Tells People To Be More Careful Online

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Citizens urged to be more “cyber streetwise”

With internet threats seemingly around every corner, the UK government’s National Cyber Security Programme has announced it is launching an initiative called “Cyber Streetwise”, to raise awareness of the threats and costs of cyber-attacks to consumers and small businesses.

The campaign has launched an interactive website which offers a range of resources and advice for businesses and consumers on how to best protect themselves online. It also offers a list of tips for people to follow, including installing anti-virus software on new devices, using strong and memorable passwords, and ensuring that social media privacy settings are secure.

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“The internet has radically changed the way we work and socialise. It has created a wealth of opportunities, but with these opportunities there are also threats,” said security minister James Brokenshire.

“As a government we are taking the fight to cyber criminals wherever they are in the world. However, by taking a few simple steps while online the public can keep cyber criminals out and their information safe.”

Bosses can take part in a ‘health check’ for their businesses, covering such areas as data security, anti-virus protection, and asking which employees have access to which data. Recent changes in working practices, such as the rise of BYOD and increasingly flexible working hours, have given many employees much more responsibility (and culpability) when it comes to lines of communication, so companies need to ensure that workers recognise what data can be shared and what may be at risk.

The campaign comes at a time when Britain is having to seriously consider its online security credentials. In December, David Cameron headed to China to discuss cyber-security issues following claims of mass spying on both sides, and the continuing revelations from Edward Snowden have raised concerns in many Western countries around the amount of surveillance carried out by their governments.

Internet security provider Sophos is one of the companies involved in the campaign, along with major businesses including Facebook and Microsoft. James Lyne, Sophos’ Global Head of Security Research, said of the launch, “Consumers and SMEs alike are finding new ways to interact online, including via a greater range of devices, but with this enhanced technology comes risk.

“Those who don’t put basic security measures in place are leaving themselves exposed to attackers capable of silently installing malicious code on their systems without permission.”

Sophos revealed that its dedicated security labs team find over 30,000 new infected websites distributing malware every day and that around 80 percent are the websites of legitimate small businesses which have been hacked, showing that this government advice could not have come at a better time.

The campaign has also been welcomed by other security companies. Ashish Patel of Stonesoft said he believed digital security to be paramount for the well-being of the UK economy, stating, “Enterprises often expose themselves to risk because of simple mistakes made by employees. Staff at all levels within the enterprise need to adopt good computer hygiene, in guidance from their organisation, to help stay a step ahead of innovative cyber-attacks.”

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