Agile fraudsters prey on clueless UK surfers
Get Safe Online week aims to curtail easy pickings
British attitudes to online safety remain patchy at best, leaving surfers vulnerable to scammers who typically empty funds from compromised accounts before moving onto the next victim.
That's according to a survey published in conjunction with the launch the UK's fourth annual Get Safe Online Week, which kicks off today.
Although use of anti-virus software (85 per cent) is widespread, almost half (48 per cent) of net users surveyed fail to update definition files at least every month, leaving their protection ineffective against the latest malware threats. Anti-spyware protection is installed by less than one in four (23 per cent) UK internet users. Nearly half (47 per cent) are not using any anti-phishing website authentication software.
The lack of protection against phishing scams is concerning due to the increased presence of this type of scam. One in four (23 per cent) of UK net users surveyed by Get Safe Online said that they or someone they knew fell victim to such an attack this year, compared to just eight per cent in 2007.
Worst of all nearly one in five (19 per cent) of the 1,400 UK surfers polled by ICM Research on behalf of Get Safe Online use just one password for all their websites. That means if a hacker works out a way to extract the password for a less sensitive site, for example a social networking site, he has full access to any site a user might be using.
GetSafeOnline.org experts report that fraudsters typically try to get in and out of compromised accounts quickly before moving on to the next mark. This means, in practice, emptying a victim's current and savings accounts and exhausting the full limit of their credit cards.
It estimates that an average UK worker earning £23,764 a year would be worth £14,500 to online criminals. This is based on the idea of three months salary held in online bank accounts and an average of 2.4 credit cards with credit card limits of £3,500 per card, amounting to £8,400.
The estimate is not based on any example from real life and makes enough assumptions, such as the complete removal of funds from all accounts and the compromise of all accounts a person holds, to give a serious statistician heart palpitations. Nonetheless the risk of online fraud is a real enough threat.
Tony Neate, managing director of GetSafeOnline.org, explained: "We are actively encouraging more people to go online, but in doing so, to ensure that they are safe and secure.
"If internet users invest a relatively small amount of time and money in ensuring they are fully protected and up-to-date, the risk of such financial loss is almost negligible," he added.
Home Office Minister Alan Campbell backed the safety drive, adding that the government was putting £7m into establishing a new police unit dedicated to fighting cybercrime. Given that the Home Office dragged its heels for months before finally giving the Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU) the go-ahead, to say nothing of its dismissive initial response to a House of Lords study on cybercrime, it is questionable how much credit the Brown administration deserves for taking economic crime in cyberspace seriously.
Easy-to-follow advice against online identity fraud and other internet scams can be found at the Get Safe Online website. GetSafeOnline.org is sponsored by government departments and the IT industry. Backers include the Cabinet Office, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), Home Office and the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), as well as HSBC, Microsoft, Cable & Wireless, PayPal and Symantec. ®
good on you Matt
Like Matt I have not had to overload my PC with excessive software such as Antispyware antivirus and firewall just so that I can go online and even after all of this still inescure.
If I am required to wear a helmet a parashuite a seatbelt before I drive I rather not drive i rather find another mean of transport and this is exactly what is wrong with using windows whilst you are online.
Sorry but windows sucks and all this post relates to is windows users
Windows fanboys you should all be ashamed, afterall you are the ones actually paying out money for a very insecure OS and then sitting here backing it up ?
Comeon get your heads out of the sand
Linux Rocks Windows sucks its as simple as that.
I didn't say anything about email scams or phishing. I just don't need anti-virus software - neither do I need to wait 2 days for the microsoft patches to apply to keep my os up to date. I can actually spend time using the computer than watching it grind to a halt waiting for the latest payload of patches, get fed up and cancel the update leaving me even more vulnerable.
The thing about using different passwords is good advice though!
3 months salary ?
Well er, after tax thats about a tenner, so Ive got at least a years worth...
As for the site, it looks as if its aimed at 10 year olds and as Matt rightly points out, seems full of advice for those using less secure operating systems without a mention of alternatives.