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 Thursday, 2nd February 2012, 16:10:56

MPs call for improved information about cyber attacks

MPs call for improved information about cyber attacks

The Science and Technology Select Committee (STSC) has called for a government campaign to increase public awareness of cyber crime.

According to committee chair Andrew Miller, private computer users need to be better educated on how to protect themselves and their personal information online.

"Government departments need to realise that better public information about computer safety could save numbers of people the hassle of having their personal data stolen," he said.

It follows a report from fraud prevention service CIFAS, which found that facility takeover fraud – in which computer hackers or mail interceptors access consumers' personal details – increased by 18 per cent in 2011.

This crime now accounts for ten per cent of all fraud cases.

Cyber attacks such as these are likely to increase as more and more people use the internet, especially for financial processes such as online shopping and credit card transactions.

In the committee's report, it suggested that a prolonged TV advertising campaign would be an effective way to educate people on how to stay safe online.

However, they also wish to avoid scaring the British public, believing that education is key to tackling the problem.

"Knowledge is the best defence against fear, so the government should focus on raising awareness of how to stay safe online rather than scaring people about the dangers of cybercrime," Mr Miller said.

In a cyber security report published last year, figures showed that cyber attacks cost private computer users £1.4 billion in online scams and £1.7 billion in identity theft, which currently accounts for 48 per cent of all fraud cases.

Around £30 million was lost to "scareware", which fools consumers into downloading harmful software onto their personal computers.

It is believed that self-regulation is the key to protecting consumer users from these attacks, as an estimated 80 per cent of cyber crimes could be prevented by "routine IT hygiene".

However, the advice to consumers online is often so technical or "jargon-filled" as to be inaccessible.

This is why the STSC is also calling for improvements and increased promotion of an existing Get Safe Online website.

Posted by Kevin Jenson

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