A recent online survey conducted by Cheshire police has revealed that residents of Cheshire are not as cyber-savvy as they think they are.
Although the majority of responses, released today on Safer Internet Day which is celebrated globally with the theme 'Together For A Better Internet', showed a basic knowledge of what they can do to keep themselves safe, the survey did reveal that more can be done to keep themselves and their devices secure.
Cybercrime is rapidly becoming one of the fastest growing crimes in the UK. Over recent years we have seen crime types change from the more traditional to online and Cheshire police estimates that almost half of all its recorded crime is now cyber-related.
“It is estimated that around 80 per cent of known cyberattacks can be prevented,” explained Detective Sergeant Chris Maddocks, who leads on the force’s cyber strategy.
“What this survey set out to do was to test people’s knowledge on five key areas that can help you stay safe online. It is not the case of ‘if’ it will happen, but ‘when’ it will happen to you.”
The online survey received almost 2,500 responses to questions based on the force’s five basic rules to staying safe online:
Three quarters of the respondents need to improve their password strength. To create stronger passwords, think about using three random words, replacing some of the letters with symbols and numbers and use more than one password. You may consider a phrase for which your password uses the first letter of each word.
Six out of 10 admitted they put off updating devices. It's important to cover vital security updates that help protect devices from hackers, viruses and identity theft. Not keeping software up-to-date can result in serious issues that can affect not only devices but personal security too.
Eight out of 10 respondents were overly-generous with personal information. Confidentiality is key as sharing what might seem like harmless news, such as where you work, when you're going on holiday, pets' names and so on, could help criminals get access to more personal data.
However, it is encouraging to see that three quarters of those who took part were able to recognise a fake website and are thinking before they are clicking on links. They are not always what they seem and many look genuine at first glance. Only open attachments or click on links to websites if they are from someone you know and trust.
Three quarters of respondents also revealed they have used public wifi at least once to shop or bank online. It is vital that people are safely connected when carrying out such transactions and that, to ensure that the data that travels between the website and device is encrypted, there should always be a padlock AND https in the address bar, along with checking the website isn't fake.
David Keane, police and crime commissioner for Cheshire, added: “It is concerning to see that Cheshire residents are putting themselves at risk of cyber-attacks by not using a strong-enough password or oversharing personal details on social media.
“With cybercrime on the increase, the risks of being targeted by cyber criminals are increasing. But by making small changes to make your online profiles more secure, you can minimise this risk.
“I would encourage all Cheshire residents to review their online footprint to ensure it is as secure as possible.”
“Vulnerabilities and threats increase as people let more and more technology into their lives. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the criminal fraternity and organised crime groups, who are also adapting how they operate, using this lucrative technology more and more to prey on the vulnerable members of society.
“Eight out of 10 of us now use the internet every day. We're all becoming more and more reliant on digital technology both at home and at work so following our 5Cs guide will go a long way to keeping people safe online," concluded DS Maddocks.
The full 5Cs guide can be found - https://www.cheshire.police.uk/advice-and-support/internet-safety-and-security/our-5cs-guide-to-staying-safe-online/ - where visitors can also link through to Get Safe Online, a national organisation providing free expert advice on online safety.