The UK has experienced a three-fold increase in financial losses from fraud and cybercrime in the first six months of 2021, according to the latest data from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau. According to a report in Digit, a total of £1.3bn has been lost, compared with £414.7m for the same time last year.
The peak of criminal activity occurred between January and March this year, during the strictest period of lockdown. Cybercrimes showed the most prolific increase, jumping from 39,160 to 289,437, as criminals took advantage of the security loopholes created as people worked from home, and the spike in online shopping and other activity.
Out of the four nations, England, and the south east in particular, emerged as a target for cybercrime. London lost £629m, compared with losses of £47.6m for the whole of Scotland. Mid and South Wales and Northern Ireland lost £45.9m and £24.5m respectively.
Meanwhile, a new survey reported by Continuity Central doesn’t offer much more hopeful news. A Digital Readiness survey of over 300 IT professionals in the UK found that less than half (47%) of organisations had adapted their security strategy to accommodate remote working scenarios.
Instead of introducing new IT solutions or reconfiguring the existing architecture, the majority of firms reported that they were relying on raising employee awareness and providing training on cyber security. This is despite the fact that almost all the respondents planned to continue remote working practices in the future.
Only 42% of firms actively monitor devices used by employees for remote working, and up to 76% of IT purchases are made without prior approval from the IT team. This leaves organisations particularly vulnerable to malware attacks and account hijacking. The CEO of the Cyber Security Association, Chris Windley, recently spoke about the issue.
Windley commented: “The level in which IT is embedded within the wider organization still varies depending on the business. This disconnect, in terms of level of authority and lack of sufficient operating budget, is leading IT professionals to become ‘yes/no people’ as opposed to informed consultants to other teams.
He added: “There needs to be a more collaborative approach in terms of how the IT team works with the business as a whole, and how it enables access to the right tools and software to ensure cyber and data security, and integrity.”
According to the report, 45% of organisations had experienced an increase in phishing, which is most often in the form of emails which appear to be from trusted senders, but have malicious intent, such as obtaining sensitive information, or installing malware on the victim’s device.
Action Fraud has recently issued a warning to university students to be wary of potential scammers purporting to be from the HMRC. There are particularly high numbers of new students this year, and many will also be taking up part-time jobs for the first time to support their studies.
Students who have never paid tax before are warned to be wary of scam texts and emails offering fictional tax refunds, or making demands for unpaid tax. Anyone who receives suspicious messages should contact the HMRC through the GOV.UK website.
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