12 March 2018 | By Miriam Wraight Community

Addressing the perception gap in cyber security

The Home Office’s Miriam Wraight looks at how industry and government can work together to make the UK a more hostile environment for cyber criminals

Make no mistake: cybercrime 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.

The latest research from Cyber Aware, the cross-government campaign, says the main reason for this is a marked perceptions gap between how members of the public view cybercrime and the reality of the threat. And because they underestimate the impact of cybercrime, fewer people are taking simple and quick actions to keep themselves safe online.

Prevailing myths

Despite high profile hacking scandals affecting high profile brands and institutions, such as 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 cybercrime isn’t ‘real crime’. In the UK only 6.2 per cent of computer misuse offences are reported to the police and more than half of business that have experienced a cyber breach failed to report it outside their organisation.

This is compounded by a perception that cybercrime 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 among 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. 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. 

The business role

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 help to build trust.

Our research shows there’s a genuine expectation from most consumers that businesses are looking out for their interests –72 per cent of consumers, for example, believe it is the responsibility of companies to provide them with the tools they need to protect themselves. Firms benefit too; by encouraging their customers and staff to be more cyber savvy, they can help close down risks to their businesses.

As a trusted voice, they have the opportunity to repeat the same message to drive change. Including cyber safety advice in customer and staff communications, integrating cyber security into staff training and adding reminders to strengthen passwords all contribute to a safer online experience.

Data breaches are likely to increase as the use of electronic devices grow. That’s why it’s so important for businesses, government and members of the public work together to make the UK as cyber secure as it is cyber successful.

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