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Government urges firms to be 'Cyber Streetwise' with online security campaign

13 Jan 2014

The UK government has launched a new Cyber Streetwise campaign, hoping to educate businesses about how to protect themselves from hackers.

As part of the campaign, the government has launched a new Cyber Streetwise website that offers businesses interactive guides, videos and articles about cyber security. The site is co-sponsored by several private sector companies and agencies including Sophos, Facebook, RBS Group, and Financial Fraud Action UK.

The Home Office claims the site is necessary as recent research shows half of all UK citizens are failing to take even basic measures to protect themselves online.

The research showed that only 44 percent of Brits install antivirus software on new devices and only 37 percent install software patches. It also revealed that 57 percent of UK citizens do not check websites' security credentials before loading their financial details while shopping online.

To counter this the new Home Office Cyber Streetwise site advises businesses to adopt five basic measures. These include, using "strong, memorable passwords", installing antivirus software on all work devices, checking privacy settings on social media, checking the security of online retailers before loading card details and patching systems as soon as updates are available.

Security minister James Brokenshire said the Cyber Streetwise campaign is an essential step in the government's ongoing bid to protect and develop the country's digital economy.

"The internet has radically changed the way we work and socialise. It has created a wealth of opportunities, but with these opportunities there are also threats. As a government we are taking the fight to cyber criminals wherever they are in the world," he said.

"However, by taking a few simple steps while online the public can keep cyber criminals out and their information safe. Cyber Streetwise is an innovative new campaign that will provide everyone with the knowledge and confidence to make simple and effective changes to stay safe online."

The service has been welcomed by numerous security vendors. Global head of Security Research at Sophos James Lyne said the service will be of particular use to small and medium-sized businesses.

"Consumers and SMEs alike are finding new ways to interact online, including via a greater range of devices, but with this enhanced technology comes risk. Sophos Labs finds over 30,000 new infected websites distributing malware every day and, contrary to popular belief, the majority – around 80 percent – are legitimate small business websites that have been hacked,” he said.

“It's therefore vital that small businesses in particular get the basics of security right, from installing antivirus to regularly updating and patching software, using complex passwords and protecting data."

Symantec's UK and Ireland vice president Simon Moor reiterated Lyne’s sentiment, warning that criminals are developing increasingly sophisticated ways to target businesses.

“Online threats are constantly evolving, however people can be lulled into a sense of false security by the sheer ubiquity of connected technology, leaving themselves open to being tricked into downloading malware, or cyber criminals accessing their personal data,” he said.

“Even those tech-savvy people can benefit from a regular reassessment of our usage of web-connected devices. This is why Symantec is supporting cyber streetwise through the provision of information to the site as well as communications to our staff and customers.”

The new campaign is part of the government's ongoing Cyber Security Strategy. The strategy launched in 2011 when the government pledged to invest £650m to bolster the nation's cyber defences. Educating businesses about the threat facing them and cyber best practice has been a staple part of the strategy.

The government launched its Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP) in March 2013. CISP is designed to facilitate the sharing of information regarding cyber threats between the public and private sector.

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Alastair Stevenson

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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