We invited Ian Dyson, QPM, Commissioner, City of London Police to analyse the impact of 2020 and look forward to 2021:
The arrival of COVID-19 early in 2020 changed all of our lives drastically. The way we live and work has altered in ways we couldn’t have imagined this time last year.
We’re spending more time at home and online, and we’ve all had to adjust and adapt as the pandemic has developed.
Just as we have adjusted and adapted, so have fraudsters and cybercriminals. They are exploiting the spread of COVID-19 and using every opportunity they can to scam innocent businesses and individuals.
Action Fraud, the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, reports that between March and July, more than £11 million had been reported lost by 2,866 victims of coronavirus-related scams. Over 645 charities have also been hit by scams related to the pandemic, resulting in losses of £3.6 million.
Cybercrime continues to rise in scale and complexity, affecting essential services, businesses and individuals alike. It costs the UK billions of pounds, causes untold damage and upset to victims, and threatens national security.
And it’s not just large and high-profile businesses and organisations that are targeted. A recent government survey found around half of micro and small businesses reported falling victim to a cyber security breach or cyberattack in the past year. The average cost to these businesses was nearly £1,000 – rising to more than £3,000 for some.
Protecting organisations and individuals from opportunists seeking to capitalise on the challenges we are facing has got to be a priority as we look ahead to 2021. People have made enormous sacrifices this year as we work together to tackle the pandemic, and we will do everything in our power to prevent them experiencing further hardship and suffering at the hands of fraudsters and cybercriminals.
Recently, I took on national leadership responsibility for cybercrime, alongside the City of London Police’s responsibilities for fraud. This is the first time that the two portfolios have been aligned and this will provide further opportunities for policing and partners to collaborate on threats and enablers that span both fraud and cybercrime.
A particular area of focus will be making better use of intelligence and data to support a more proactive approach to tackling these threats.
Part of this data-driven approach is the new Police Cyber Alarm tool, which is free and available to organisations to help monitor malicious cyber activity. It provides software for monitoring for suspected malicious activity at an organisation’s firewall and vulnerability scanning. It enables us to build up a picture from across the country, which helps to drive investigative activity, provide timely prevention messaging and alert organisations to particular threats.
Alongside this, a number of initiatives will help businesses better protect themselves against attack. Since 2019, the Home Office has funded the establishment of a number of regional Cyber Resilience Centres to support and help protect businesses against cybercrime, with more to follow in the coming months. The centres bring together a range of partners, including policing, academia, businesses, and third and public sector organisations to share information and provide advice and guidance.
There is a wealth of resources out there to help ensure you are aware of the current threats and know how to best protect yourself. I encourage you to make use of these and help to contribute to the large-scale effort to make the internet a safer place for all.
Ian Dyson, QPM
Commissioner, City of London Police
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