Neighbourhood Watch’s latest cybercrime survey has revealed that one-fifth of its over 25,000 respondents (members and public) have been a victim of cybercrime, with two-fifths being more concerned about cybercrime since the cost-of-living crisis began.
These fears are corroborated by the fact that those who believe cybercrime to be less of a threat than physical crime are now firmly in the minority (15%). This builds upon previous findings, which showed 39% of respondents to be more concerned about cybercrime than burglary or car crime.
The survey – entitled From Neighbourhood to Cyberhood – has shone a light on the changing face of crime in the UK. From text messages from scammers posing as the NHS, to the selling of personal data, the last few years have seen a sharp increase in cybercriminals exploiting those who are most in need. “You are more likely to be impacted by a cyberfraud or scam than any other crime,” warns Paul Maskall, Fraud and Cybercrime Prevention Manager at UK Finance.
Our 2021 survey revealed that, astonishingly, one in four respondents reported losses of more than £1,000, while our 2022 survey found that a shocking 62% of victims lost up to £500. Aside from the financial loss, these crimes are having a significant emotional impact on their victims – with many people reporting feeling upset, embarrassed, and feeling they couldn’t tell anyone.
Fraud and scams now make up 42% of all major crime types in the UK, and the strategies cybercriminals use to exploit their victims have evolved over time. This is evidenced by the latest survey, which showed that – out of over 25,000 that took part – only 16% knew what stalkerware was, while as little as 13% were aware of spearfishing.
In 2019, Neighbourhood Watch joined forces with cybersecurity firm Avast to form the Cyberhood Watch initiative, whose mission is to provide useful resources that help people stay safe online. As a global leader in digital security, Avast has supported the charity in educating communities on the latest security risks and the importance of safeguarding personal information.
Cyberhood Watch’s Ambassadors have been rolling out these key messages and have volunteered to be designated points of contact for cybersecurity concerns within their local communities. The charity currently has 70 trained Cyberhood Watch Ambassadors to help address the rising threat of cybercrime within communities.
Robin Sutton, Cyberhood Watch Ambassador and Chair of Cambridgeshire Neighbourhood Watch, said: “The Cyberhood Watch project is a vital part of the work we do up and down the country to help keep communities safe from crime. Ambassadors are all volunteers who give up their time to train, offer advice, and keep themselves up to date with current cybercrime developments and share their knowledge with their community.”
Sandra Bauer, Neighbourhood Watch’s Head of Partnership, Projects and Policy, said: “We meet regularly with current Ambassadors and trainees, to talk about their work and to discuss any challenges they are encountering. There are also speakers who attend from agencies like Trading Standards, Police Protect, and the National Crime Agency, to mention a few.”
Those interested in becoming Ambassadors are invited to complete a cybersecurity training programme – for more details visit ourwatch.org.uk/cybercrime/cyberhoodwatchambassador.
With the latest survey finding that only 40% of respondents regularly updated antivirus software, Avast’s experts have restated how vital this is. Apart from reminding members of the importance of antivirus software, they recommend regularly performing software updates, as these often include security patches that help prevent data breaches.
Michal Salat, Threat Intelligence Director at Avast, said: “Cybergroups go to many lengths to tap into people’s worst fears to deceive them into sending money or giving up personal data because it is easier to make people vulnerable than hacking their devices. We expect to see attacks playing with people’s economic and environmental concerns. Scams are not just flooding people’s inboxes in the form of phishing emails, but are bombarding people’s text messaging apps, and are keeping their phones ringing."
They also advise using different passwords for online accounts and different devices. In this way, if one account or device becomes compromised, the rest are still secure. The use of three random words, numbers, and symbols helps to make passwords harder to decipher, while two-factor authentication (in which users receive a security code before logging in) adds a vitally important extra layer of security.
For more findings from the cybercrime surveys, visit ourwatch.org.uk/cybercrime/cyberhoodwatch.