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Use strong passwords and install antivirus, mmkay? UK.gov pushes awareness campaign

It's meant to be 'accessible', so don't point and laugh

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The UK government has launched a new campaign aimed at changing attitudes to online security among consumers and small businesses, dubbed Cyber Streetwise.

Cyber Streetwise is urging people to take five actions in order to protect themselves and others from cyber crime:

  • Use strong, memorable passwords
  • Install anti-virus software on new devices
  • Check privacy settings on social media
  • Shop safely online – always ensuring to check online retail sites are secure
  • Keep software and application patches up to date

The Cyber Streetwise website – CyberStreetwise.com – is offering a range of interactive resources for SMEs and consumers offering impartial advice on how to protect themselves online. The site is full of drop down lists and colourful graphics that recall public information films of yesteryear.

The £4m campaign is led by the Home Office, funded by the National Cyber Security Programme, and delivered in partnership with the private and voluntary sectors.

The initiative has earned the support of UK infosec firms such as Sophos, which is providing security expertise and content for the Cyberstreetwise site.

James Lyne, global head of security research at Sophos, explained that Cyber Streetwise is designed to be more accessible than previous UK government cyber security initiatives, such as Get Safe Online.

"GetSafeOnline was one of the governments first awareness and advice tools," Lyne explained. "Whilst they both focus on the same task of building awareness of security issues Cyber Street is based off an analysis of the behaviours of different members of society online.

"The advice is supposed to be targeted and tailored at these groups to be more accessible and extends beyond a website in to a broader campaign with posters on the underground etc. In short, they are complimentary but Cyber Streetwise should be more accessible to the broader community and a reminder of security as you stroll to work."

SophosLabs finds over 30,000 new infected websites distributing malware every day and, contrary to popular belief, the majority – around 80 per cent – are legitimate small business websites that have been hacked. "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," Lyne added.

Matt Palmer, member of the ISACA Security Advisory Group, described Cyber Streetwise as an useful resource for small business managers, who are often pressured for time and do not have access to internal expertise in cyber security.

"Implementing all the areas highlighted will provide some basic protection against low-level threats and significantly reduce risk," according to Palmer. "However, it should be clearer that the good practices listed are a starting point for effective small business security."

Ron Gula, chief exec of security appliance firm Tenable Network Security, stressed the importance of training and education in combating cyber threats to businesses.

“This approach of bolstering the skills and knowledge of the public and businesses is a smart step," said Gula. "The right education and training can significantly reduce the frequency of security breaches. It can help staff to identify suspicious emails, know how some of the attacks work and teach staff what to do if they become compromised. While limiting and monitoring employee access to the internet can help reduce the risk of social engineering attacks, it is only by teaching people about the threats online, that they may be inclined to accept a more stringent internet usage policy." ®

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