Make no mistake: cyber crime is here and it's here to stay. According to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, the average person is 11 times more likely to fall victim to some form of computer misuse than a robbery[i].
Cyber Aware's latest research report identifies that the main reason for this is a marked perceptions gap between how the public view cyber crime and the reality of the threat. This is lowering the perceptions of the impact of cyber crime, therefore limiting the public in taking simple and quick action which would build vital resilience against the cyber threat.
It appears that in spite of high profile hacking scandals affecting the likes of Mumsnet, Talk Talk and the NHS, a number of myths still persist in the minds of the public and business leaders.
The first is a misplaced belief that cyber crime isn't 'real crime', born out by the facts that in the UK only 6.2% of computer misuse offences are reported to the police[ii] and more than half of business that have experienced a cyber breach failed to report it outside their organisation[iii].
This is compounded by a perception that cyber crime isn't something ordinary citizens or smaller businesses should be worried about.
The final perception gap is perhaps the most concerning of all – a sense amongst the general population that there's nothing more they can do to protect themselves from online crime, either in their personal or working lives.
This is far from the case. The reality is that a few simple steps can afford a real degree of protection against the majority of cyber threats – like using a strong, separate password for your email account and always installing the latest software and app updates.
We're calling on businesses to use their influence over both consumers and employees to bridge this gap and drive behavioural change. Not only as a means of reducing the reputational and financial risks of a cyber attack – but as an important customer engagement tool which will build trust. Our research shows there's a genuine expectation from most consumers that businesses are looking out for their interests –72% of consumers, for example, believe it is the responsibility of companies to provide them with the tools they need to protect themselves[iv]. And, this brings huge benefits to businesses; encouraging their customers and staff to be more cyber savvy by taking these simple steps to protect themselves will help close down risks to their businesses.
Repeating the same message through trusted voices is key. Tactics like including cyber advice in customer and staff communications, integrating cyber security into training and creating light touch nudges at relevant touchpoints (such as account log ins) around the importance of things like passwords all add up to shape the way we go about protecting ourselves in the digital space.
With the prevalence of data breaches only likely to increase as we further digitise our lives and introduce new ways of working such as 'bring your own' device, it is crucial that businesses, government and individual members of the public work together to make the UK as cyber secure as it is cyber successful.
[i]Official for National Statistics, Crime Survey for England and Wales 2016
[ii] Official for National Statistics, Crime Survey for England and Wales 2016
[iii] Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2017
[iv] Deloitte, The Deloitte Consumer Review: Consumer data under attack: The growing threat of cyber crime, 2015
Miriam Wraight is Head of the Research Information and Communications Unit in the Home Office and leads HMG's Cyber Aware campaign. She looks at how Industry and Government can work together to make the UK a more hostile environment for cyber criminals.