What do the new annual crime figures tell us?

If you are a member of Cyber Wise you will know already that we aim to teach our users of the importance of cyber security, and acknowledge the truly devastating effects that cybercrime and fraud is causing throughout the country. This is the first time, however, that we’ve had the chance to back it up with cold hard facts and figures from the “powers that be”.

Yesterday, new annual figures were released by the Crime Survey for England and Wales cybercrime as a separate category for the first time. The figures were alarming! We now know that cybercrime and fraud are both increasing at horrifying rates and how it is costing the UK £27Bn every year. The Survey estimates that there were over 3.6 million cases of fraud and 2 million cases of computer misuse offences in the year 2016, we believe the true figures to be much higher due to the number of unreported incidents. John Flatley from the Office of National Statistics reminded us how in the past, burglary and theft of vehicles were “high-volume crimes” but the internet is significantly changing the threat landscape of crime in the UK

“When the crime survey started, fraud was not considered a significant threat and the internet had yet to be invented. Today’s figures demonstrate how crime has changed, with fraud now the most commonly experienced offence.”

Fraud proved to be the significant differences between the 2015 and 2016 annual crime reports. Police minister Brandon Lewis said that reforms of the police were working and the measures traditionally measured by the survey had fallen by 370,000. However this was before the introduction of fraud and cybercrime, Chief Constable Jeff Farrar said…

“The ability to commit crime online demonstrates the need for policing to adapt and transform to tackle these cyber challenges.”

There is a key reason as to why police need to figure out new tactics to help fight against cybercrime – they are struggling to manage the sheer volume of cybercrime and fraud that is now being committed as its exponential rise is nothing short of phenomenal. The truth is that many more crimes and acts of fraud go undetected and unreported to the police, due to embarrassment, or because people are unsure on how to report it, especially if it’s IT related rather than phone fraud. This means, of course, that the estimated 3.6 million crimes from yesterday’s report is likely to be substantially larger, and we are yet to get accurate figures on how many cybercrimes are solved, with the criminals being caught and punished.

BBC Radio 4 presented a very interesting interview on the ‘You and Yours’ programme with Sir Tom Winsor who is the Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales. He says that “The amount of fraud that is taking place now is probably in epidemic proportions, the police are having to work very, very hard to keep up with even the ones they know about.”

When someone falls victim to online fraud it obviously causes a lot of panic and the perception of victims as a whole is that banks and financial institutions will refund any money that is lost or stolen this way, however, it is by no means certain that you will get it back! A BBC discussion on Radio 5 live about fraud and cybercrime included an interview with Des Dillion, who owns a student accommodation company and was tricked into giving away his personal information over the phone – this led to the loss of £230,000 from his company bank account. He said…

“We’ve recouped [over] £100,000, we’re outstanding £113,000. We managed to block and recoup the balance and now we’re fighting [with the bank] about the other portion of it.”

Des is an example of how customers and businesses need to be aware of targeting attacks. Fraud is not only committed online, many criminals contact their victims directly by post or phone. They impersonate corporations, businesses and even the government to try and trick you into giving them your personal information. Katy Worobec who is the director of Financial Fraud Action UK said that banks were only managing to stop £6 in every £10 targeted by criminals and she also believes that people need to be far more aware of the ever growing threats.

The report outlined that it was “undeniable” that the overall level of “traditional” crime has been falling, for example, burglary and theft however the new target is gaps in online banking and security. This reminded me of a quote I saw recently from the BBC Technology website…

“A good detective must have the skills to catch a burglar or killer, but very few of them have the skills to analyse screens of information and find criminals who have taken the digital road to a life of crime.”

The government have announced recently that they are investing £1.9Bn in cybersecurity over the next 5 years. Clearly they believe that cybercrime and fraud is a large scale problem that need to be dealt with urgently, however, will the £1.9Bn also help with training and arming the police and the public with the right tools to prevent and fight these offences? Something that the annual figures brutally prove needs to happen and happen fast.

Additionally, in 2018 businesses will have to comply with the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). It is designed to further protect the personal information belonging EU citizens and effectively significantly extends the protections enshrined in the Data Protection Act. Businesses worldwide who hold data on EU citizens must comply with the new regulations, it and this will almost certainly impact positively on reducing data theft. Should they be found guilty of non-compliance, that then allows our personal data to be stolen, they will find that not only their reputation is damaged, but they could also be hit with a fine of up to 20m Euros, or up to 4% of their annual turnover.

We all need to accept that Cybercrime is not going anywhere and it is more likely than not that we will all be touched by it at some point in the future (if we haven’t already) some of us far more seriously than others unfortunately. Ultimately, we need to take control –these days we are all careful to lock our doors before going to bed at night, or leaving the office, however, I believe there is a reason that the figure for traditional burglary is decreasing and it’s because our most valuable assets from a criminal perspective, that is money and identity, are no longer protected by keys, safes and alarms.

We need to invest and upgrade in cyber security systems that monitor and police the very latest threats and learn from them, and we need to invest in training and education both for our teams and our families. If we do this we can significantly reduce the chances of a successfully attack and save ourselves the stress, time, money and reputation loss associated with it.

The government have launched their new Cyber Essentials Schemes which helps bring you up to date and is designed to stop up to 80% of attacks, something Hallidays IT can help you achieve –and being Cyber Wise can help you with the other 20%.

Whatever you do, don’t do nothing, there were 550 million data records compromised in the first half of 2016, I suspect the latter half will be even higher – we need to act now so we don’t become part of 2017s statistics.