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UK launches major net security awareness campaign

Joe Public invited to Get Safe Online

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A major UK government campaign to help consumers and small businesses protect themselves from internet security threats launches in the UK on Thursday. The 'Get Safe Online' campaign aims to arrest the growth in computer security risks that threaten to slow down the rise of ecommerce. The scheme - backed by the launch of a www.getsafeonline.org website - aims to help the public to become more "cyber-savvy" and to consolidate net security information, which is currently fragmented.

Research from Get Safe Online has found that over three quarters of the UK’s population (83 per cent) don’t know enough about protecting themselves online. Nearly half (42 per cent) of the population rely on friends and family for online safety advice rather than finding expert information for themselves. This lack of education, which Get Safe Online aims to address, threatens to undermine confidence in an online retail economy is worth £10bn a year. An estimated 14m use online banking.

Get Safe Online will focus on the basics of Internet security. Subjects covered will include advising users to maintain up-to-date anti-virus signatures, patch operating systems and use firewalls. Protecting personal information, password usage and protection and counter-fraud measures will also be covered. The campaign will aim to educate users about spyware and adware risks. Another planned element will emphasise the importance of backing up systems. Get Safe Online aims to become a one-stop-shop for net security advice.

The scheme has been compared to previous government campaigns against drink driving, or the "clunk, click" campaign advising users to use safety belts in cars. The UK scheme is similar in aims to the US National Cyber Security Alliance's StaySafeOnline scheme.

The campaign is a joint initiative between HM Government, the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit and private sector sponsors from the worlds of technology, retail and finance, including: BT, Dell, eBay, HSBC, Lloyds TSB, Microsoft, MessageLabs, securetrading.com and Yell.com.

John Hutton, Cabinet Minister responsible for e-Government, explained: "The internet has become an essential tool for businesses and consumers, and has brought enormous benefits to our everyday lives, but we all know there are risks too. That’s why we’re running the Get Safe Online campaign to make the internet a safer place to make financial transactions and exchange personal information. It’s a challenge that I believe will be achieved by this collaboration between public and private sectors we’ve created."

Sharon Lemon, head of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit explained the challenge to the UK, added: "Increasingly we are seeing organised criminals turning to the Internet as a vehicle for their criminality. And as more of us are connecting to the internet to shop, bank and communicate, we need to make sure that we do so as safely as possible. Get Safe Online gives the public the information they need to protect themselves." ®

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